What is MEDISIGNS about?

What can we do to make sure interpreting is good in all health consultations? MEDISIGNS, an EU-funded project sets out to establish some strong ideas about this.

One of the most important things we want to do is to show how Deaf patients, doctors and nurses, and interpreters can work together to get the best results. Good communication doesn’t depend only on the interpreter: everyone has to co-operate. Sometimes it is not possible to get an interpreter in a healthcare setting, often leaving a Deaf person or the healthcare provider in a situation which potentially compromises the level of patient care being delivered. Potentially, this forces a Deaf patient to either wait until an interpreter becomes available, or rely on a family or friend to casually interpret on their behalf. This is not ideal especially in medial situations that are sensitive, confidential or private in nature. From the perspective of a Deaf community and the project consortium, it is important to note that the provision of qualified interpreters, and especially those trained in healthcare aspects, is not viewed as a luxury but as a fundamental human right to the access and provision of appropriate healthcare.

Products addressing this need have been developed before, however they have been largely produced to serve a single geographic market and a single user group. MEDISIGNS has been rolled out in 5 countries and targets 3 distinct user groups in Ireland, Cyprus, Poland, Sweden and the UK.

European training materials and CPD courses do not exist in Europe and there is an increasing need to provide further training of interpreters who practice in a healthcare context. Furthermore, a major element of the course focuses on providing essential information on Deaf culture and awareness to the medical profession to facilitate better communications in the triadic exchange between healthcare professional - interpreter - Deaf patient.

So MEDISIGNS has a particular aim of showing what effective co-operation means and how it happens through partnership between professionals and patients.

Doing this will make it easier for Deaf people to be clear about what they want from interpreters. Health professionals can learn how to handle interpreted appointments. Patients and doctors will have a better appreciation of what the interpreter is trying to do. For example, she may carefully judge that there is a need to add or leave out information in order to make the doctor-patient conversation run effectively. Many people don’t realise that this is part of what a good interpreter should do – but she can only do it well if she has been trained to judge the right time and the wrong time to make such adjustments.

MEDISIGNS aims to help spread good quality interpreting throughout the health service. Everyone benefits when interpreting works well. Doctors make smarter diagnoses. Patients get better. And no-one gets sued.