Connecting patients to interpreters with the push of a button

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An innovative interpretation services project is currently being piloted in the IWK Emergency Department. The “LanguageLine Insight App” has been loaded onto an iPad and can connect clinicians who require interpretation services for their patients and families to a network of highly-trained, qualified interpreters at the push of a button.

“We have incorporated this service on a six-month trial basis due to the increased frequency in requests for services,” Renette Amirault-Laing, bilingual services coordinator, says. “It’s not possible to pre-book interpretation services with an interpreter in the Emergency Department, for obvious reasons. So this tool really comes in handy.”

Research shows that face-to-face is best for interpreting, with video conference a close second.

“There are so many non-verbal cues that play such an important part in interpretation services,” Amirault-Laing says. “Especially when it comes to complex and confusing medical terms when patients and families are experiencing highly emotional and stressful situations. We want to ensure that we are doing everything we can to make patients feel safe, secure and understood and this app goes a long way to ensuring that.”

Amirault-Laing conducted a full week of training to the emergency staff and pickup has been very positive. The iPad is set up at eye level, clinicians punch in an access code and push the language they need and almost instantaneously connect with an interpreter. “Insight” is the only application that is loaded onto the iPad, making it even easier to navigate.

“Not only is this service of great benefit to patients and families, but interpretation services can also provide benefits to the health care system itself, including lower incidents of re-admissions, decreased length of stays, decreased risk of adverse drug events and lower overall costs of care,” Amirault-Laing says.

The pilot project will be assessed at the end of the six-month period, with feedback from both staff, patients and families being evaluated. For further information on the LanguageLine Insight video app, please visit

Interpretation services for all languages are available throughout the health centre 24/7 and face-to-face using services contracted by the IWK or telephone using RIO Network.