September 1, 2007
Web-cams in GP surgeries to help deaf patients
From: East London and West Essex Guardian Series - UK - Sept 1, 2007
By Jonathan Bunn
DEAF people may soon be able to communicate with their GPs using the latest web-cam technology.
Due to a chronic shortage of sign language interpreters, deaf patients in Waltham Forest currently often have to book a doctor's appointment weeks in advance.
GPs have a statutory obligation to ensure disabled patients have the same access as anyone else to medical services and the new system will enable them to meet that obligation.
The Signhealth program, which was developed by charity Sign with the endorsement of the Department of Health, enables patients to enjoy full interaction with their GPs at the click of a mouse with the help of an interpreter.
The system also enables health workers to send reminders and prescription details to patients.
The doctors simply choose from a list of questions, which are then relayed to the patient via a short video clip of someone signing the inquiry.
Waltham Forest Primary Care Trust is one of 152 areas in England which will be offered the enhanced system.
Phil Murden, managing director of SignHealth Ltd, said: "We don't intend Signhealth to be a replacement for face-to-face interpreter, but for certain types of consultation, it can give deaf patients in Waltham Forest the option to have an appointment with their GP immediately.
"We have had really positive feedback from GPs and their deaf patients who have used the program. Receiving appointment reminders by text alerts have been shown to dramatically improve attendance rates by deaf patients and this shows that Signhealth can deliver real cost efficiencies, as well as improving access to primary care for deaf people."
To see a demo version of the program visit www.signhealth.org.
© 2007 Newsquest Media Group