Telehealth a sign of the times for hearing impaired

Telehealth enables Auslan services for hearing impaired patients

The WA Country Health Service’s (WACHS) telehealth enabled healthcare services have made it possible for hearing impaired patients across regional Western Australia to access interpreter services for Auslan. 

Kalgoorlie Health Campus recently facilitated the use of telehealth to incorporate a Perth-based interpreter for Auslan into an appointment with a hearing-impaired patient and her clinician.      

This week marks Telehealth Awareness Week (19-23 October) and WACHS is shining a spotlight on how digital technology is having a positive impact on country people. 

It provides an opportunity to showcase how telehealth can improve patient experiences and assist them to receive care closer to home, whether that is for clinical appointments or by including an additional resource to provide assistance. 

Lovelyn James, Acting Business Manager WACHS Goldfields, said it was during the patient’s initial consultation that a Kalgoorlie Health Campus doctor identified the benefit of having an interpreter present. 

“Although we’ve used Translation and Interpreting Services (TIS) for people who are not fluent in English, we had never needed to utilise an Auslan Interpreter service before,” Lovelyn said.

“Using telehealth to bring an interpreter in on the consult was the most logical option, particularly as we are still taking extra precautions due to COVID-19.”

The patient’s primary carer was relieved that the hospital was able to organise the interpreter service as part of the pre-admission, pre-operative and a post-operative consults.

“The hospital staff coordinated the interpreter and the appointments with the clinicians, did a very good job at setting up the telehealth technology side of things and the clinicians were so cooperative and flexible with their time,” they said. 

“There was even a laptop set up for the patient to see her interpreter in the ward before her surgery.      

“Having the interpreter service available made a huge difference to the patient’s understanding and wellbeing. 

“It was heartening to see that telehealth has enabled this level of patient support across country WA, because this patient and scenario is not unique. 

It removed a great amount of concern, as a carer, knowing that the patient was comfortable with the medical procedure about to take place.”  

WACHS Goldfields A/Regional Director Peter Tredinnick said telehealth capability had rapidly expanded as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

“As an organisation WACHS has always been a global leader in innovative thinking when it comes to harnessing new technology for a more equitable health system.

“It’s vital that hearing impaired patients know they can ask for an interpreter and that, even if they are in a region and an interpreter might not be able to attend in person, it is still possible thanks to telehealth.”

Check with your health professional to see if a telehealth appointment is right for you.  For more information visit the HealthyWA website.