GPs are now able to remotely access an interpreter for Deaf patients at the ‘click of a mouse’. The revolutionary web-based program SignHealth has been enhanced to provide live sign language interpreting over the internet.
SignHealth, developed by the national charity Sign, enables doctors and nurses to communicate with Deaf patients who use British Sign Language (BSL) via a computer program. The new development to the program allows a Deaf patient and a GP to have fully interactive two-way communication with a live BSL interpreter using a simple web cam. This means that GPs can have almost instant access to a BSL interpreter allowing them to deal easily with short notice or unsupported Deaf patient appointments.
Recent research carried out by The University of Manchester demonstrates a disturbing picture where Deaf people face difficult and often distressing obstacles in order to access the NHS. Two-thirds of Deaf people surveyed said it was important to have support to communicate with their doctor, yet more than half were alone at their last appointment. SignHealth provides this support and gives doctors and Deaf patients a simple way to communicate easily and quickly with the added benefit of direct access to a live BSL interpreter if needed.
Another feature of SignHealth allows surgeries to create and send text messages to Deaf patients. Sending appointment reminders and prescription pickups by text dramatically reduces missed appointments by Deaf patients which at present are estimated to cost the NHS £20 million a year (RNID). SignHealth will also support PCTs with their communication about the program to surgeries and provide clear instruction on how to access it as well as supplying a webcam as part of the service.
PCTs are already incorporating SignHealth in their DES plans, and are addressing their obligations for equity of access to healthcare services under the Disability and Discrimination Act 1995. The act states that doctors are legally obliged under the new legislation to ensure that disabled people have the same access as everyone else to the services they provide.
Nearly 20% of England’s PCT’s took a user license under the endorsement of the Department of Health, last year. The basic program gives GPs immediate access to BSL translation in the form of short video clips.
Roger Hewitt, SignHealth Deaf Community Ambassador who is responsible for promoting SignHealth to the Deaf Community, commented: “At present a Deaf person may have to wait up to two weeks for a doctor’s appointment because of the shortage of fully qualified BSL interpreters within England. With SignHealth there is no need to wait.”
Phil Murden, Managing Director of SignHealth, commented: “We have received very positive feedback from GPs and their Deaf patients who have used the program. We are also delighted that interpreters see the online service as giving them the flexibility to work where they please and allow them to make more efficient use of their time.”
Phil continued: “With so much focus on reducing interpreting costs within the NHS, SignHealth can deliver real cost efficiencies, whilst improving access to primary care for Deaf people.”
SignHealth is the only computer program of its kind to offer communication support to Deaf patients at GP surgeries. A demo version of SignHealth can be viewed by logging onto www.signhealth.com, username; gpcommunity, password; demo.