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Health Web site will translate documents

Regional hospitals plan to use a foreign language translation Web site to better serve patients.
Tuesday, February 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 5:51 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 5, 2008

Walking through the doors of a hospital can be scary enough for those who know exactly what’s going on around them. But for those who don’t understand the language being spoken, hospital visits can become even more intimidating. With the creation of a new Web site, the Missouri Hospital Association is trying to make visits easier on everyone who walks through the hospital doors — no matter what language they speak.

Since Oct. 1, HealthTranslations.com has been available for local hospitals and paid subscribers. According to Leslie Porth, vice president of health improvement at MHA, the Web site, a link off the MHA’s Web page, helps translate the most important documents needed when a patient enters the hospital.

According to Porth, the hospital association developed the Web site partially to go along with policy guidance from agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services. But, she said, it’s doing more than that. Most importantly, Porth said, it is helping hospitals provide quality care for patients and families who speak limited English.

“There are over 90 languages and dialects spoken in St. Louis alone,” Porth said. “We were given a grant from Tenet Healthcare Foundation to look for some solutions, and we decided a Web site would be the best response.”

Missouri’s foreign-born population has been gradually increasing in the past 10 years. In Boone County, the minority-based population has risen from 9.1 percent in 1980 to 15.3 percent in 2000, according to data from the U.S. census.

The Web site provides translated hospital documents in six languages, and its creators hope it will soon do more. Every document translated is critical to patients in order to be admitted into hospitals and properly treated, Porth said.

Maurice Manring, manager of public relations at University Hospital, agrees with MHA that there is a growing need for hospital translation resources. Manring said he believes that HealthTranslations.com is an important development and will be heavily used by Missouri hospitals. Manring finds that the best way to handle language issues is by using multiple sources of translation, which could eventually include the Web site.

“As a university town, we definitely find all sorts of language barriers,” Manring said. “We are continually working on new ways to cure the problem.”

Many rural areas around Missouri are interested in the Web site as well. Jan Dungan, vice president of clinical services at Lake Regional Hospital in Camden County, said that although people tend to think only urban areas are affected by diversity issues in the medical field, that is not the case.

“We are particularly interested in the Web site because of our growing Latino population in Camden County,” Dungan said. “We want to meet the needs of our population segment.”

Although the hospital has subscribed to HealthTranslations.com, it has yet to be implemented there. The staff members need to be educated on how to operate the Web site, and then they will begin using it, Dungan said. Workers at Lake Regional are excited to use the Web site and intend to use it along with their current resources, which include a list of interpreters in the area and a phone service that translates languages.

“I applaud MHA for taking the initiative to create this Web site,” Dungan said. “This puts so many opportunities for handling language differences right at our fingertips.”

Along with translations, the Web site also provides links and resources on providing efficient care to patients who speak limited English. The next phase in the development of HealthTranslations.com is to provide translation of patient-education documents.

The Web site is open to the public but will mostly be used by health care officials, according to Porth. There is a one-time fee ranging from $250 to $1,000 for subscribers and annual fees thereafter.


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