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Effect of Dedicated In-Person Interpreter on Satisfaction and Efficiency in Otolaryngology Ambulatory Clinic

Douglas R Johnston, Jennifer M Lavin, Allison Rose Hammer, Abbey Studer, Colin Harding, Dana M Thompson

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2020 Sep 22; Online Ahead of Print


Objective: In a large academic children's hospital ambulatory clinic, the increasing demand for Spanish interpretation exceeds the Interpreting Services Department capacity, necessitating telephone interpretation. By adding a dedicated Spanish interpreter in the otolaryngology clinic, we aimed to decrease visit times for Spanish-speaking patients and increase satisfaction. Additional aims explored if dedicated Spanish interpreters could increase patients seen per session.

Methods: A quality improvement initiative investigated baseline state compared to 2 tests of change using video interpretation and dedicated, in-person interpretation. Time permitting, interpreters contacted patients before the visit to decrease missed appointments and late arrivals. Measures included clinic visit times, late arrivals, missed appointments, and family/employee satisfaction scores. Actuarial statistics forecasted if on-site Spanish interpreters would affect patients seen per session and the potential addition of sessions.

Results: In-person interpretation reduced visit times for Spanish-speaking patients from 55 to 48 minutes (P = .01) and 57 to 48 minutes for all patients (P < .0001). Nearly 50% of video calls experienced technical difficulties. Families and employees preferred in-person over video and phone interpretation. No-show visits decreased by 25% and late arrivals by 17%.

Discussion: Implementing dedicated Spanish interpreters may increase productivity and enhance family experience.

Implications for practice: Reducing patient visit time by 9 minutes permits 2 additional patients per clinic session (1560 visits, 390 surgeries per year). Applied institution-wide, the intervention could create 29% more capacity in the ambulatory schedule (31,000 additional visits) and reduce actuarial need for ambulatory sessions in the same clinic space.

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