Healthcare innovations should not neglect medical translation needs

Among the intentions of the new health reform legislation is an expansion of choice for today’s healthcare consumer. This focus is already casting into sharper relief the imperative for providers to effectively communicate with their audiences, especially its limited English proficient (LEP) audiences.

HealthPartners, a provider and insurer in Minnesota, recently launched a novel remote diagnosis service. Called Virtuwell, the new service is available online, offering treatment for a range of common conditions that don’t typically require an actual exam. These include colds, allergy-related issues, ear pain, yeast and urinary tract infections, and a host of others.

Patients visiting the site are first asked a set of standard questions en route to diagnosis. The answers are then reviewed by a nurse practitioner, who then contacts the patient directly about 30 minutes later.

It is hoped that the service, which costs about $40 and is available to anyone living in or visiting Minnesota, will streamline the process for medical staff, while enabling patients to enjoy more immediate care and assistance and at a lower cost.

On that score it is a laudable effort. But what is not mentioned, and what seems absent after a brief tour of the Virtuwell site, are any language options. In a state that recent census data identifies as being comprised of a population that is 5 percent foreign born (more than 260,000 people), such an option seems like a missed opportunity.

Till next time,

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