BackgroundFacilitating access to professional interpretation services is key to equitable hospital care for migrants with limited language proficiency; however, interpreter underuse has been documented. The factors that potentially enable or hinder professional interpreter use are not well understood. We aimed to compare perceptions held by hospital managers and healthcare practitioners of the factors influencing the use of remote video interpretation and in-person interpretation.
MethodsThis study employed a retrospective qualitative design. Two hospitals, located in Austria and Norway, with adequately similar baseline characteristics were purposively selected. Both hospitals used in-person interpreters, and the Austrian hospital had recently introduced remote video interpretation as an alternative and supplement. Fifteen managers and healthcare practitioners participated in focus groups and individual interviews. Data were thematically analysed with the aid of behavioural system theory.
ResultsAcross sites, the facilitators of interpreter use included individual factors (knowledge about interpreter services, skills to assess when/how to use an interpreter, beliefs about favourable consequences), as well as organisational factors (soft budget constraints). Barriers were identified at the individual level (lack of interpersonal skills to handle difficult provider-interpreter situations, lack of skills to persuade patients to accept interpreter use, lack of trust in service professionalism), and at the organisational level (limited interpreter availability, time constraints). The introduction of remote video interpretation services seemed to counteract the organisational barriers. Video interpretation was further perceived to enable patient confidentiality, which was regarded as a facilitator. However, video interpretation introduced specific barriers, including perceived communication deficiencies.
ConclusionThis study has identified a range of factors that are perceived to influence the use of interpreters in hospitals. The research suggests that-implementing remote video interpretation services lessens the barriers to use and that such services should be introduced in hospital settings as an alternative or supplement to in-person interpreters. Further intervention functions should be considered to bring about change in the use of interpretation services, including developing guidelines for interpreter use, educating staff in the appropriate use of video technology, and training staff in communicating with interpreter and patients with limited language proficiency.
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