It All Begins with Hello


Hello. It’s such a simple greeting, yet it can be so powerful when communicating with a patient.

If a first responder or healthcare provider can’t get past “hello” when dealing with a foreign-language speaker, it can be challenging to provide proper care. In the past few weeks, we’ve learned how two different agencies are approaching language barriers in their communities. Read on and share your ideas or best practices with us.

With Chinese residents predicted to become New York’s largest immigrant group in the next few years, some New York City firefighters, EMTs and paramedics are taking Mandarin classes.

“I deal with people in very bad situations. It’s always late at night, frantic. People are sick,” says Lt. Charles Flores. “If you can put them a little at ease, that’s half the treatment sometimes. It’s just making them feel well.”

And sometimes, he says, that all begins with a “ni hao” — hello.

Read: For NYC Firefighters Learning Mandarin, Service Starts With ‘Ni Hao’

At Chicago’s Advocate Health Care, when clinicians need to communicate with a patient that doesn’t understand English, they grab an iPad or smartphone, access an app for video remote interpreting, and there’s a video feed with someone within minutes, usually seconds.

“It’s amazing, seeing their eyes light up when you have an interpreter right there (on the mobile device) that they can talk to face-to-face,” says Carolyn Hager, MBA, JD, CPHRM, Advocate Health’s director of language services, who uses two different video remote interpreting platforms to provide services in 24 different languages. “Sometimes people don’t understand how important that can be.”

Read: Digital Health Translators Help Providers Get Past ‘Hello’

1st Minute App is designed to help EMS, paramedics, firefighters and other first responders overcome language barriers in under 60 seconds. When first responders are called to an emergency, the injured person may not speak English. If they are conscious and able to speak, comprehension is low and even gestures can be misinterpreted. Key information may be missed like pain location and severity, medical history, allergies, or medications. Without proper and timely assessment, this can lead to medical errors and/or death.  1st Minute can help.

Download 1st Minute App for iOS on the App Store

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