Nov 2, 2020

Using technology to overcome language barriers in healthcare

health disparities
language barrier
Leila Hawkins
3 min
Using technology to overcome language barriers in healthcare
How CLI are helping patients with limited English to stay connected to their healthcare providers...

Certified Languages International (CLI) provides interpreting services for people who speak limited English, particularly to connect them to healthcare providers. It's a service that's become more necessary than ever during the pandemic, to ensure no one gets left behind with healthcare's shift to telehealth. 

CLI was founded by Bill Graeper in Portland, Oregon in 1996. Bill, an entrepreneur with a background in the telecommunications industry, recognised the need for high-quality telephonic interpreting services, particularly in the healthcare sector. The company is currently run by his daughter Kristin Quinlan. 

While they operate in a variety of industries, a key aim of CLI is helping people who may be vulnerable and have limited English skills, by enabling them to be active in everyday decisions to do with their healthcare. 

The company offers language translation over the phone, via remote video, document translation and language skills assessments. Around 65% of their business is with hospital or healthcare systems, such as pharmacies, ER and ICU, and continues to increase as the need for virtual telehealth visits rises. 

"The main goal is facilitating communication to help reduce health disparities in minority populations" Quinlan says. "Qualified interpreters handle all manner of day-to-day content, from appointment reminders to surgical consults. A CLI interpreter also recently served the sad - but important - role of helping a family say goodbye to a loved one passing away from COVID, and many others played an important role in accurately relaying critical medical information in a professional and caring manner."

CLI have developed their own proprietary software and workflow system that they say are unique to the industry, allowing patients and providers to connect through most devices. Their new VRI 2.0 enhances their remote video platform, so that healthcare providers can connect quickly to patients with limited English and an interpreter. This gives them the advantages of face-to-face communication, while patients can remain at home while the pandemic is ongoing. 

Kristin explains that COVID has had a significant impact on the people they serve. "With more than 350 languages spoken in US homes, and 20 per cent of the US population with limited English-proficiency, already disenfranchised communities are finding themselves disproportionately impacted by the transition to telehealth, due to the need for interpreters to join their appointments.

"It is immensely important for patients to receive the care they need in their primary language, and in the midst of a global health crisis, the right technology is key to ensure seamless language access in telehealth sessions when in-person visits are not always safe or viable" she adds. 

Prior to the pandemic healthcare interpreters would attend assignments in person. "The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the need for qualified interpreter-assisted telehealth sessions. CLI has trained large hospital clients to ensure quick and easy integration of their systems so interpreters can operate remotely in a safe way."

"COVID has quite dramatically raised awareness among healthcare providers for the need to offer this service, and CLI have been there to partner and make sure the voices of people with limited English are heard." 

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Jun 14, 2021

Zoom enters the healthcare market - a timeline

3 min
We chart Zoom's rise and entrance into the healthcare market

Since the pandemic began Zoom has become an integral part of daily life for people working from home, as well as a vital tool for families and friends to communicate. However it's also been eyeing up the healthcare space since 2017, and following the boom in telehealth the company has been rolling out additional services. Here we chart Zoom's move into healthcare. 

2011 - 2013

Zoom is founded in San Jose, California, by Eric Yuan, formerly of Cisco. He got the idea to create a video calling platform from his visits to his girlfriend while he was a student, which would take 10 hours by train. 

A beta version is released in 2012, which can host up to 15 participants. In 2013 this rises to 25. By mid-2013, Zoom has 1 million users. 

2014 - 2017

Zoom attracts investors, including Sequoia Capital, Emergence and Horizon Ventures. By January 2017, Zoom has a series D funding worth $100 million.

2017 - 2019

Zoom for Telehealth launches, including an integration with EHR system Epic. It has cloud-based video, audio, and content sharing features, a "waiting room" for patients, and can easily be integrated into healthcare provider's workflows. 

In 2019 Zoom goes public, with its IPO rising 72% in one day. 


As a result of the pandemic, Zoom gains 2.2 million new users, more than in the whole of 2019. On the 23rd of March alone - the day the UK lockdown was announced - the platform was downloaded 2.13 million times around the world. 

Share prices rise to around $150, and founder and chief executive Eric Yuan becomes one of the world's richest people, with an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion. 

Early security issues are addressed by encrypting data with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). By now the the platform allows 99 people to be on a call simultaneously
New features launch, including Zoom Home and Zoom for Chats. Throughout the year the platform is used to replace most kinds of real life events: work meetings, online classrooms, church services and social events. 


Renamed Zoom for Healthcare, users can share secured video, audio, and content through desktops, mobile phones, and conference devices. As well as Epic, it can be integrated with Strmr, IntakeQ, and Practice Better.

It can also be used with diagnostic cameras and other point-of-care devices, including digital stethoscopes.

In an interview with Korea Biomedical Review, Zoom Global Healthcare Lead Ron Emerson said: "Our service is not simply a virtual care and telemedicine platform but a multi-purpose platform that can satisfy the needs of healthcare institutions."

"It can be used for administrative tasks, including telemedicine, medical team meetings, recruitment, medical education, employee training, and disease prevention. Analysing electronic records managed by Zoom could provide meaningful insights into patient care." 

Phoenix Children's Hospital, Belfast's Hospital Services Limited, Butler Health Services and the global Project ECHO are among Zoom for Healthcare's current customers. 

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