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System breaches language barriers

Still a pilot program, MARTTI testing well with PNMC staff and patients


Health care professionals at Providence Newberg Medical Center have a new friend, his name is MARTTI.

Technically, MARTTI isn’t a person but works every day to breech language barriers for patients and staff.

Known as My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter, MARTTI is a “robot” in a pilot program at the medical center. It’s a wireless, mobile device that provides on-demand interpreters for more than 200 languages. MARTTI may look like just another monitor on a pole, but the new technology is already so in demand, PNMC had to order an additional machine after less than a month of use.Photo Credit: GARY ALLEN - New techology - Father Tim Bushy, chaplain at Providence Newberg Medical Center, demonstrates ­MARTTI, the facility's new online interpretative service.

“It’s a great use of technology,” said Mike Antrim, PNMC marketing manager. “It was really spirited through our Mission Integration Department.”

The department is headed by Father Tim Bushy, who recently conducted a community health and needs assessment.

“(MARTTI is) really in response to that,” Bushy said when he learned language barriers were a large concern in the community. “We started going out and looking around.”

What he found was MARTTI.

“We are the first Providence hospital in Oregon to try this machine,” he said.

The concept is fairly simple. As needed, hospital staff in any department can use MARTTI to translate. They select the language needed on the touch-screen monitor, and it connects to a translator ready to assist virtually.

In a demonstration, interpreter Lisa explained how the process works.

“When we interpret we do it in the first person,” she said. “So we ask rather than ‘Can you ask her, does he do this?’ we ask the patient directly because interpretation is done in the first person exactly as you say it.”

Bushy said initially there were some privacy concerns as interpreters are streamed via the Internet. But he said a secure line was established that ensures there is no privacy breach.

There’s also the option to turn off the video feed during a session so the interpreter can still hear the discussion and assist, but cannot witness potentially sensitive procedures.

“For us here in Yamhill County, not only is it being responsive but I think one of the things I’ve noticed already is families really appreciate it, (as do) patients and nurses,” Bushy said. “One (nurse) said ‘I have a new best friend at work.’”

He added that it seems MARTTI is being used more often than the old translating systems — physically bringing in a person or using the Language Line on the phone.

“As far as the cost on this, at this point it’s still a part of the pilot,” Bushy said.

PNMC has leased the machines and pays for services by the minute each month.

“To be honest, we haven’t received a bill yet,” he said. “It’s going to be very interesting to look at the cost to see if it’s going to be a cost savings, which we think it will be.”

Regardless of the cost, Bushy said he’s happy people are using the system, and in the right way.

“We really went after this because our mission is to promote healing and God’s love to all, and it’s a way in which we can improve our quality for all patients,” he said.

As the test site in Oregon, Antrim said other hospitals are looking into the technology as well, and basing their decision on how well it works in Newberg.

“This is just really exciting,” he said.

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