Multilingual Challenges Faced in Telemedicine

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Multilingual Challenges Faced in Telemedicine

The use of telemedicine has skyrocketed during the outbreak of COVID-19 as it helps provide necessary care to patients while minimising the transmission risk of the virus. Despite its convenience and capacity to transcend traditional boundaries of medical care, it has been experiencing implementation challenges over the years.

Telemedicine refers to the practice of remote healthcare when the healthcare provider and patient are not physically present with each other. Using a telecommunications infrastructure, physicians and patients can share information in real time and physicians can also monitor and capture readings from medical devices at a faraway location. Telemedicine helps prevent the spread of infectious illness as physical contact can be avoided. Patients that reside in rural areas who had difficulties accessing a physician can receive medical care without leaving home. By assessing the patient’s condition beforehand, such technology also help shorten the length of hospital stay and reduce the readmission rate.

Being widely praised for all its benefits, the implementation rate of telemedicine is still unsatisfying amidst some challenges.

Require interpreting service

There is no doubt English is the principal language of modern medicine and so patients with limited English proficiency may experience additional communication barriers to engaging with telemedicine. Besides, it is crucial that patients can receive medical care in their primary language as they can express their feeling and concerns accurately and comfortably. Only assisted by trained and qualified medical interpreters, can physicians provide high quality telemedicine services to a broad and diverse audience.

Medical terminology is created as a standardised language for medical professionals which laymen is hard to understand, even if he is fluent in that language. If someone unprofessional, having only a superficial understanding of medical terminology and medical systems, tries to interpret, there is a huge possibility of human errors. It may result in poor patient care or even a misleading diagnosis.

Lack of human touch

Some advanced telemedicine systems provide automatic translation on healthcare chatbot services, processed by machine translation software. Given that there are words with dual meanings in every different language, it is a significant problem for the machine. It will lead to inaccurate translations which disrupt the flow of text and the sentence will be confusing while human translator is able to identify the correct meaning by instantly matching the word to the content. Awkward translation may do no harm for causal chatting between patients and physicians, but it may lead to ambiguous instruction for the patients and misleading diagnosis for the professionals.

Insufficient implementation training

The pandemic has catalysed profound transformations in the healthcare industry, a shift toward telemedicine from traditional practice. However, surveys discovered that there is a deficiency in physician training within the field of telemedicine. It is understandable that the already exhausted healthcare workers have no extra time to learn the operation of the telemedicine applications, and even if they try, they are likely to mishandle the process. To make things worse, some patients resist adopting service models differ from traditional approaches or indigenous practices.

Healthcare professionals, especially those frontline heroes, having been carrying a heavy burden throughout the past two years. A proper implementation of telemedicine with all-round multilingual support can reduce healthcare workloads and increases access. Elite Asia’s FUZON platform allows healthcare providers to utilise the interpretation tools and provide their patients with the language access they need.