Since its founding in 1911, Maimonides Medical Center (MMC) has been an integral part of Brooklyn's healthcare landscape, evolving into a 711-bed specialty care teaching hospital and the largest hospital in the borough. MMC is renowned for its diverse array of high-quality tertiary care services, from pioneering the first heart transplant in the U.S. to establishing the Northeast's first hospital-based Clinical Simulation Center.
With Brooklyn's rich tapestry of cultures comes a significant challenge: effectively communicating with patients who speak a myriad of languages and hail from various cultural backgrounds.
Serving a community where approximately 30% of residents have limited English proficiency, Maimonides’ care teams face substantial language barriers. This diversity, while a testament to Brooklyn's global identity, poses practical challenges when it comes to confident medical communication.
Diya Sarsour, Supervisor of Patient Relations at MMC, knows these challenges all too well. Recounting his childhood experience as a translator for his family, Sarsour highlights the emotional strain and potential for misunderstandings when families must rely on children to convey complex medical information.
“Growing up being an eight-year-old, trying to interpret for my parents in an emergency room in the middle of Brooklyn is a memory that I will always hold. It makes me proud to know that we provide professional interpreters who have a complete understanding of the medical terminology being spoken to them, and we aren't putting other eight-year-olds like I was, 25 years ago, in that same nerve-wracking position."
To bridge the language barrier and best serve their diverse patient population, Maimonides partnered with Voyce, rolling out their interpretation services as a pilot project. The feedback was resoundingly positive, prompting a swift transition to a full contract.
“Voyce came in as a pilot project and it was lights out. They did such a great job that shortly thereafter we moved into contract with them,” says Kevin Cottingham, Assistant Vice President of Operations at MMC.
“Since then, we’ve expanded. The video interpretation services they provide are a favorite of both our patients and our clinicians, our doctors, our nurses.”
The visual aspect—seeing an interpreter who reflects the patient's identity—creates comfort and understanding beyond words. When combined with the non-verbal cues that cannot be communicated through the phone, the importance of video interpretation becomes all the more apparent.
“Voyce really does a great job in allowing us to do this by having a face on the screen rather than just being a voice over the phone,” says Sarsour. “A lot of things are picked up by visual cues from the patients. A lot of times, patients just like to see someone else who looks like them, and that makes them feel comfortable.”
Cottingham explains that staff “prefer to use the iPads that Voyce provides us.”
“Staff prefer to have an interpreter that's face-to-face as opposed to over the phone. Those interpreters are able to connect with our patients. They are able to see facial cues to make sure that our patients are understanding what's being told to them.”
The ability to communicate effectively in nearly any language is a crucial factor for a hospital serving the over 38,000 inpatients and 781,000 outpatients that Maimonides sees annually.
“For staff here to have those languages at the tips of their fingers via a tablet and the Voyce service really does give the staff a comfort, a safety net,” says Sarsour.
The staff's unanimous appreciation for Voyce underscores its influence.
“Our clinicians, our doctors, our nurses, all of our teams – both the inpatient and outpatient areas of the medical center – really like Voyce,” explains Cottingham.
“Voyce did a wonderful job hiring additional interpreters in different languages because we are so diverse here. They matched what our need was and since they've come on, it's been nothing but a pleasure to deal with them.”
And Cottingham notes the impact that the ability to communicate with confidence has on their patients.
“When patients come to us here at the Medical Center, we want to make sure they feel comfortable enough to receive the care that they deserve. To do that we provide language services such as Voyce to ensure that they feel comfortable, that they have an understanding of the care that we're providing.”
“Confident communication is extremely important here,” says Sarsour. “The more patients have clear and confident communication from our staff, the more they trust us to deliver care to them.”
With plans to further expand its reach, including through MMCH's enhanced clinical services and MMC's role in Community Care of Brooklyn, Maimonides remains dedicated to addressing the broad social determinants of health. This dedication, coupled with innovations like Voyce, positions MMC as a leader in providing culturally competent care, ultimately bettering health outcomes in one of New York City's most diverse communities.
“I appreciate the partner that Voyce has become here at the medical center,” says Cottingham. “[Language interpretation] is a major challenge for us and it’s quite costly here to continue language services for our diverse population. And to have a partner like Voyce is fantastic.”
We will show you Voyce in action
Sthefani Rodriguez, Project Manager
Let's talk about integrating Voyce
Jeremy Waiser, Director of Partnerships
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Martin Cedeno, Director of Interpreter Operations