By April Wilkerson Writer, OU College of Medicine,
For a patient who doesn’t speak the same language as the medical providers giving him care, the experience can be frightening and frustrating.
Kelly Daniels, administrative manager
at the OU Children’s Physicians Building,
demonstrates the use of MARTTI, new
“tele-translation” technology in use at
OU Medicine has broken through that barrier with the acquisition of interpretation technology. MARTTI – My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter – could be described as “interpretive services meets Skype.” The system, about the size of a standard computer screen, is used in clinical spaces to provide real-time interpretation in a multitude of languages. A provider simply dials in to MARTTI and requests an interpreter, who then relays information while the patient watches the screen.
OU Medicine has interpreters on staff, but the demand for their skills is high. With MARTTI, the quick access, visual interaction plus language translation is having a positive effect on patient care. Candace Shaw, assistant vice provost for academic technology and director of the Center for Telemedicine, said MARTTI is yet another example of technology enhancing the human interaction that is crucial in health care.
“The technology breaks down the barriers of access to services,” she said. “We have a great mix of ethnicities among our patients, and MARTTI allows us to interact with them.”
MARTTI is being used in both the OU Children’s Physicians Building and in hospital rooms at OU Medical Center. Kelly Daniels, administrative manager at the OU Children’s Physicians Building, said the six MARTTI platforms in her facility are constantly in use. A grant has been submitted to purchase more.
MARTTI is especially useful in children’s treatment, Daniels said, because providers often see young patients who speak English, but their parents do not. The law prohibits using children under 18 to translate medical information to their parents, but using MARTTI allows the entire family to hear and participate in treatment.
“Patients and families love it,” Daniels said. “It’s live, it’s available 24/7 and it’s just like someone is talking to them in person.”
Indeed, technology has become more routine and accepted in the clinical setting. Shaw said that once patients and providers spend a little time with technology at the bedside, the TV screen fades into the background and the human interaction takes center stage. The OU Health Sciences Center as a whole has increasingly used telemedicine with similar good outcomes, connecting physicians with patients in rural Oklahoma and giving them care they might not otherwise receive.
MARTTI works like a cell phone plan; the user buys the equipment and, after the free minutes are used up, pays for each interaction. Interpreters are available whether they’re needed for 15 minutes or two hours. Although the technology is similar to Skype, MARTTI uses a different, encrypted platform that is HIPAA-compliant. The interpreters are part of a national group that is certified to interpret and is trained in medical terminology.
Spanish, Vietnamese and sign language interpreters have been used extensively at OU Medicine. Dozens more interpreters are available to speak everything from Icelandic to Serbian to Greek.
“In areas like the emergency room or in situations where decisions need to be made quickly, MARTTI is making a big difference,” Shaw said.