Technology revolutionises patient experience during COVID-19

WSLHD Interpreter Services health care interpreter Bakri Gabir in the acoustic booth.

Western Sydney is embracing technology to overcome barriers and ensure all patients are cared for throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week is Patient Experience Week, an annual initiative to recognise the contributions staff make to improving patients’ experience with the health system.

Interpreter Services is one example of a team that is utilising technology on an unforeseen scale to keep staff safe while interpreting vital healthcare information to patients in 120 different languages.

WSLHD Interpreter Services health care interpreter Nicky (You) Wu.

Previously the team provided 85% of services on site and 15% remotely via phone, but this year they have adjusted quickly to now provide 95% of sessions remotely.

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) Interpreter Service manager Gordana Vasic said in addition to phone interpreting, the team has also been piloting video interpreting through a new Telehealth platform MyVirtualCare.

MyVirtualCare was developed as a joint project by the Agency for Clinical Innovation, eHealth and NSW Health, and early testing in Western Sydney began at a perfect time soon before the country experienced enforced physical distancing.

WSLHD Interpreter Services health care interpreter Yulita Luck.

Telehealth has also been utilised to great effect by the WSLHD Public Health Unit checking in daily with COVID-19 patients recovering at home.

Patients have been encouraged to complete a survey remotely in order to improve the service.

“Getting a call once a day was very reassuring,” one patient said. “The reassurance was needed as one is otherwise left feeling physically and especially emotionally isolated. The basis for the service was well worked out. Tremendous effort in a short space of time is impressive.”

“This service was an amazing idea,” another patient said. “It was amazing to know the government is looking after you. The calls were reassuring and supporting.”

The new booths help protect patient privacy and also minimise distractions for interpreters.

WSLHD Patient and Carer Experience manager Wendy Cain said all staff ought to be congratulated on embracing new ways of working in order to provide the best care possible through this pandemic.

“We wish staff and patients a happy Patient Experience Week. Stay safe, wash your hands, remember social distancing and spread only kindness,” Wendy said.