Background: Persons who are deaf are more likely to avoid health care providers than those who can hear, partially because of the lack of means of communication with these providers and the dearth of available interpreters. The use of video remote interpretation, namely the video camera on an electronic device, to connect deaf patients and health providers has rapidly expanded owing to its flexibility and advantageous cost compared with in-person sign language interpretation. Thus, we need to learn more about how this technology could effectively engage with and respond to the priorities of its users.
Objective: We aimed to identify existing evidence regarding the use of video remote interpretation (VRI) in health care settings and to assess whether VRI technology can enable deaf users to overcome barriers to interpretation and improve communication outcomes between them and health care personnel.
Methods: We conducted a search in 7 medical research databases (including MEDLINE, Web of Science, Embase, and Google Scholar) from 2006 including bibliographies and citations of relevant papers. The searches included articles in English, Spanish, and French. The eligibility criteria for study selection included original articles on the use of VRI for deaf or hard of hearing (DHH) sign language users for, or within, health care.
Results: From the original 176 articles identified, 120 were eliminated after reading the article title and abstract, and 41 articles were excluded after they were fully read. In total, 15 articles were included in this study: 4 studies were literature reviews, 4 were surveys, 3 were qualitative studies, and 1 was a mixed methods study that combined qualitative and quantitative data, 1 brief communication, 1 quality improvement report, and 1 secondary analysis. In this scoping review, we identified a knowledge gap regarding the quality of interpretation and training in sign language interpretation for health care. It also shows that this area is underresearched, and evidence is scant. All evidence came from high-income countries, which is particularly problematic given that most DHH persons live in low- and middle-income countries.
Conclusions: Furthering our understanding of the use of VRI technology is pertinent and relevant. The available literature shows that VRI may enable deaf users to overcome interpretation barriers and can potentially improve communication outcomes between them and health personnel within health care services. For VRI to be acceptable, sign language users require a VRI system supported by devices with large screens and a reliable internet connection, as well as qualified interpreters trained on medical interpretation.