Language often is a barrier to high-quality health care, particularly for underserved populations. A survey of health care providers found that over 70% reported that language barriers compromise patients’ understanding of their disease and treatment advice, increase the risk of complications, and make it harder for patients to explain their symptoms.
The Health Care Interpreter Network (HCIN) is a cooperative of California public, community, district, and University of California hospitals, their affiliated clinics, and community clinics sharing trained health care interpreters through an automated video/voice call center. Videoconferencing devices and all forms of telephones throughout each hospital and clinic connect within seconds to an interpreter on the HCIN system, either at their own hospital and clinic or at another participating hospital and clinic.
HCIN membership is offered to California hospitals and health care providers that are:
Public, district, or University of California hospitals
Community hospitals that are not members of hospital systems larger than three distinct acute care facilities
Community clinics that serve the Medi-Cal population
Health plans that serve the Medi-Cal population
The HCIN began pilot testing in August 2005 with funding from the California HealthCare Foundation and others. The founding hospitals were Contra Costa Health Services, San Joaquin General Hospital, and San Mateo Medical Center.
More than 60 interpreters are available in the network to provide member hospitals assistance in Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Lao, Mien, Thai, Cambodian, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Farsi, Armenian, Tongan, and Hindi. American Sign Language is available 24/7 on HCIN video stations through its connection to the Affiliated Networks (see below) and a contracted service. Spanish language interpreters are also now available 24/7 through HCIN’s connection to the Affiliated Networks, which add an additional 100 interpreters across the country (for example, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wisconsin).
The Health Care Interpreter Network now serves:
Children’s Hospital Central California
Clovis Community Medical Center
Community Medical Centers (Fresno)
Contra Costa Health Services (including nine community clinic sites) and the Contra Costa Regional Medical Center
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center
Inyo County District Hospital
Kaweah Delta Health Care District
Kern Medical Center
Los Angeles County + USC Healthcare Network
Martin Luther King Jr. Comprehensive Health Center (LA County)
Natividad Medical Center
Olive View-UCLA Medical Center
Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center
Riverside County Regional Medical Center
San Joaquin County Health Services (including behavioral health, correctional health, community clinics, and public health sites) and San Joaquin General Hospital
San Mateo Medical Center (including four community clinic sites and the Burlingame Long Term Care Facility)
Shasta Community Health Centers
Sierra View District Hospital
Ventura County Medical Center and Clinics
UCLA Medical Center
More information is available on the Health Care Interpreter Network site through the External Link below. The site features a short video showing how the HCIN interpreters deliver prompt, professional interpretation services across California using a remarkable video-over-IP network.
An audio recording of a September 24, 2010, event on this topic at the Commonwealth Club is also available through an External Link below.