Design, implementation, and evaluation of a computerized system to communicate with patients with limited native language proficiency in the perioperative period.
BACKGROUND: Effective communication with patients having limited proficiency in the native language of anesthesia care providers during the perioperative period is often challenging. We describe how we developed, implemented, and evaluated a computerized system to convey frequently used prerecorded phrases related to perioperative anesthesia care in the languages we most often encounter in such patients. METHODS: Phrases were chosen through a consensus process among anesthesia department members. These included routine sayings used to inform patients about what they should anticipate, what interventions we are performing, and how they can participate. Common questions requiring a "yes" or "no" answer were also identified. We recorded these phrases using native speakers who were both knowledgeable medically and familiar with the culture of the patients to provide accurate translations. We developed a software application that categorically grouped the phrases and allowed care providers to select a phrase and play the associated sound file to the patient and deployed the program on our touchscreen-enabled anesthesia information management system workstations. A convenience sample of obstetrical patients speaking a Chinese dialect with whom the language program was used were asked to complete an anonymous questionnaire, translated into Chinese, about their experience. Ninety-five percent lower confidence limits (LCLs) were calculated for response proportions. RESULTS: We approached 25 parturients with varying levels of English comprehension, and all agreed to use the language program. Each used it throughout her interaction with the anesthesia care providers during labor and delivery, and all patients completed the survey. Acceptance of the process was high, with all patients indicating that they would like to use it again were they to return for another procedure requiring anesthesia. Eighty-eight percent (LCL = 73%) indicated that having instructions in their native language made them feel more relaxed, whereas the experience was neutral in the remainder. Comprehension of the phrases presented was high, with 96% (LCL = 83%) indicating that they understood all instructions. Ninety-six percent (LCL = 83%) of patients indicated that they would be likely to refer friends and family to our institution based on the availability of this device. CONCLUSIONS: Although patient safety likely could be improved by use of a communication device such as the one we developed, our study was insufficiently powered to be able to measure this potential improvement. The process we describe should be useful wherever anesthesia care providers are not able to communicate in the same language as their patients.
Taicher, BM; Alam, RI; Berman, J; Epstein, RH
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