President of Digital Health U.S., Martti by UpHealth, Andy Panos penned the following article for Brandpoint’s Expert Series.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to put a spotlight on health disparities and unequal access to care, innovative solutions have emerged that are paving the way to better healthcare for everyone.

For decades, language access has been one of healthcare’s biggest challenges in the U.S. It is estimated that more than 25 million people living in the U.S. are considered limited-English-proficient (LEP) and may face significant language barriers when being treated by medical professionals.

The problem is simple, but the solution has been, until recently, almost impossible. Said succinctly, if patients can’t communicate with their doctors, they’re less likely to recover and more likely to return to care again and again. This means worse health and higher costs. What’s more, studies have found that language barriers don’t just affect the patient, they affect the healthcare providers’ satisfaction.

One key healthcare quality indicator — the 30-day hospital readmission rate — is more than double for those patients with limited English proficiency or who are deaf/hard of hearing.

Yet, hospital readmission rates can be cut almost in half if language services are provided throughout the care continuum — from admission through discharge.

By using an integrated care technology platform with embedded language interpretation and translation, care teams can launch a video interpretation session with the simple click of a button. Interpreters are available within a matter of seconds.

For example, UpHealth’s Martti language interpretation service is now serving over 188,000 patients per month in over 250 languages. This number is up over 225% since March 2020 when COVID cases began rising, indicating increasing adoption of remote language interpretation.

Patients, family members and other caregivers can be added to a video session, allowing the care team user to have multiple touchpoints with one seamless interaction.

“With a [health] system as diverse as ours, having language access available at every point of care truly enhances the patient experience. That’s a huge win for us,” said Matthew A. Koenig, M.D., Medical Director, Telemedicine, Neurocritical Care Neurology, Queen’s Health Systems, Hawaii.

There is no doubt that managing the complex medical, behavioral health and social needs of patients, especially during a pandemic, requires culturally competent care that takes into account language needs.

With a healthcare workforce strained with the pandemic response, high-tech services that overcome disparities in access and empower providers at the point of care are a clear path forward.

Today, more than 2,000 health systems in the United States are using Martti, our digital care platform that can be optimized to seamlessly integrate culturally competent medical interpretation at the point-of-care.

As we emerge from a pandemic that has worsened health disparities, let’s work to have equal language access in every doctor’s appointment — for our patients, our providers, and our bottom line.

UpHealth’s Martti™ Telehealth platform is used to deliver telehealth with built-in remote language interpretation. Martti is integrated with UpHealth’s SyntraNet™, a comprehensive integrated care platform used by large health plans and population health programs in the U.S. and internationally.