Deaf and Hard of Hearing Patients – A Matter of Life and Death

To be honest, I have been hesitant to write this blog but I have decided it is time to relay the facts, stories, and experiences as we hear them about what’s happening in the hospital environment for deaf and hard of hearing patients and the hearing hospital staff who want to provide medical care. Every time a deaf or a hard of hearing patient enters the hospital setting,
it can be a matter of Life and Death due to the unavailability of face-to-face communication on the spot. Before I get to these truths, I want to help you understand what face-to-face communication is: 1) Face-to-face communication occurs when a doctor and a patient simply have a conversation on the spot across from each other at a desk, in the Emergency Room, in the patient’s room over their tray table, or in a doctor’s office without a conscious effort. Face-to-face communication is at the heart of excellent medical care. Patients who are hearing and the medical staff take this instant, immediate communication for granted. 2) A face-to-face encounter happens instantly in a hospital setting but these face-to-face encounters which are needed for the safety of the patient and the medical staff are not instantly possible for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. To get to the heart of the issue, imagine this: Imagine you are rushed into the Emergency Room at your local hospital. Doctors and nurses come running to your side asking rapid fire questions: “Where does it hurt?” “Can you describe the pain?” “Does it hurt when I push here?” Within the first few minutes they make an initial diagnosis, and after you agree to the necessary tests, you are rushed to the operating room. Only a few short hours later, you are in Recovery. Your appendix did NOT burst because you were able to quickly and accurately describe your symptoms directly to the medical team. Days later you exit the hospital, safe, alive and on the road to recovery. ONE IMPORTANT FACT – YOU ARE HEARING! Now add this one factor to the life and death scenario I just described, with one MAJOR difference. A single change to the scene: YOU ARE DEAF. Now the scenario looks like this: You are in pain. Men and women in scrubs are in your face, shouting questions, all at the same time. You do not understand them. You can’t read their lips because you have no clue what they are saying. In the middle of the chaos, you finally make them understand you are deaf. But no one in the Emergency Room knows sign language. A nurse writes you a note on a small whiteboard, “Interpreter on the way. Here in two hours.” Her words give new meaning to, “Terrified and Unsafe!” Life or death situations like this one are played out in hospitals all across the country. It seems inhumane and impossible in this day and age of technology and the awareness of accommodations. But it is all too real. Hearing patients are able to have instant communication for diagnosis and treatment. Deaf patients are not able to have that same communication. So, what’s the answer? The medical staff is trained to help and want to help but they most often do not have the knowledge to provide all the right tools to communicate on the spot with deaf and hard of hearing patients. The first thing they do is what they have been trained to do — call for an interpreter even though they realize it may take 2 to 10 hours for an interpreter to arrive. What do they do if the deaf or hard of hearing patient needs an emergency on-the-spot diagnosis? What is the answer? First, we must get to the hard truth, HONESTLY outline the reality of the problem, and talk about it: There is not a single hospital in the country that can afford to keep interpreters on stand-by 24/7. They can’t afford to keep them sitting or standing in the hallways all night long. They often can’t even afford to keep them in the building all day long. Yet communication is needed all day long for safe medical care. Interpreters are valuable yet if a hospital stands an interpreter for 10 to 12 hours in a hospital room, it can easily cost them over $1000 to $1200 dollars. An interpreter is not necessary in all situations. We are not talking about this but the cost of an interpreter is an issue. It doesn’t matter if we like the economic reality of this truth, it is a fact regardless of ADA and the statements about hospitals paying for interpreters being a hospital’s duty. Hospitals like everyone else have a financial bottom line. Patients are our focus-specifically deaf patients. Getting informed medical treatment is our goal. Deaf patients MUST be able to communicate with their doctors and medical providers quickly and efficiently in order to get the most appropriate care. We’ve all read the stories about deaf/HOH patients who die needlessly in hospitals or medical facilities because they could not communicate with the staff. These stories are simply too horrifying to believe, but they prove a very important thing, seconds matter. Every minute can make a difference in the life of a patient. Can they afford to wait for an interpreter to be called? Not when it is truly Life or Death. So, I repeat, what’s the answer? What is the solution? The UbiDuo is The Solution. The UbiDuo provides instant, on-the-spot, face-to-face communication 24 hours a day. Deaf and hard-of-hearing patients deserve instant access to face-to-face communication. Every single time a nurse enters the room to ask even a single question. Every single time the doctor FINALLY shows up on rounds to check-in on how that patient is feeling. Every single time the orderly comes in, the volunteer delivers flowers, or a co-worker or minister drops by to sit for a few minutes and visit. Communication eliminates isolation. NOT feeling isolated can speed recovery and potentially prevent devastating negative outcomes. You can watch a testimonial of a true story by a deaf patient named Scott Walker who decided to bring his UbiDuo just in case the hospital didn’t provide him an interpreter. Decide for yourself: https://www.scomm.com/videos/news Obviously interpreters can and should be scheduled for anticipated events. They serve an important purpose in that situation. But you can’t schedule an emergency; you can’t schedule every single visit by medical personnel, or even family and friends. If at 2:00a.m., your pain flares up, who wants to wait from two to ten hours (on average) for an interpreter to be able to describe your pain well enough to get the proper medication? With a UbiDuo, those minute-by-minute, haphazard, unexpected, unpredictable occurrences can be dealt with. Easily. Quickly. Efficiently. Accurately, Instantly. You might say – even PAINLESSLY? Regardless of the requirements for acommodation, hospitals don’t have unlimited funds for interpreting services. It may not be fair, but it’s true. But there is a solution. An easy solution. An One-Time solution. A solution with unlimited availability. The UbiDuo. The goal of the medical staff in hospitals and deaf or hard of hearing patients (as well as other patients with communication issues) is to experience 100% face-to-face communication at all times within the hospital environment. The UbiDuo empowers 100% face-to-face communication instantly on-the-spot without an interpreter. Interpreters cannot facilitate face-to-face communication for those who do not use sign language. The UbiDuo provides immediate face-to-face communication to patients on ventilators, with tracheotomies or laryngeal cancer, or who have had a stroke or other speech impairment. . The UbiDuo exists to address these face-to-face communication gaps, grow face-to-face relationships, increase communication, help reduce interpreting fees by 50% to 70%, make the hospital 100% face-to-face compliant, make the hospital stay much safer for both patient and medical staff.
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