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Video vs. Phone Interpretation: How to Select the Best Service for Your Limited-English Speaking Patients

Published on July 23, 2020 by Nicole Coen

Communication needs are an important factor to consider when assessing a patient and determining how they receive treatment. When limited-English speaking patients seek care at your organization, how do you select the best communication method for each patient?

Whether you choose phone or video remote interpretation, each have pros and cons that will affect which service you use depending on the situation and the patients’ needs.

Phone Interpretation

Phone Interpretation is a three-way call between your staff member, a person who does not speak English well, and a professional interpreter. You can connect to CyraCom interpreters for over 200 languages in mere seconds, 24/7/365.


  1. Easy to implement with few equipment needs

Phone interpretation allows for easy access through any mobile or regular telephone. Because you can use equipment your organization already has, we can implement our services within your system more quickly.

  1. Fast connection times

You don’t need to waste precious minutes waiting for an on-site interpreter to arrive. Utilize a phone interpreter during time sensitive or urgent situations, such as in an Emergency Room at the hospital.

  1. Great for patients and providers in different locations

Phone interpretation is also optimal for when your staff member and a patient are already on the phone together. It has become easier than ever to connect a third party, in this case the interpreter, to a call.


  1. Not a great option for patients who rely on visual cues

While phone interpretation is a valuable solution, certain situations may warrant another method of interpretation. Patients who require or prefer visual aids, such as those from the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community, will be unable to communicate through the phone. In these cases, a video option allows patients to view the interpreter’s hands and facial expressions.

  1. May seem impersonal

Additionally, complex conversations may seem impersonal if conducted over the phone. For example, a patient may feel more at ease if they can see the interpreter when having a difficult health discussion with their doctor.

Video Interpretation

Video interpretation is a video call between and a remote professional interpreter, and an in-person healthcare provider and a person who does not speak English well. CyraCom provides access to video interpreters in over thirty languages.


  1. Helps keep social distancing measures

In a time when in-person contact has been limited due to the pandemic, video interpretation provides an alternative to on-site interpretation.

  1. Effective alternative for Deaf or Hard of Hearing patients

Using video interpretation can help support patients who use American Sign Language (ASL). CyraCom offers access to professional, qualified ASL video interpreters around the clock, saving time when an on-site interpreter is unavailable.

Note: Video interpretation can also be used for patients who communicate with a spoken language other than English, but feel more comfortable viewing their interpreter.


  1. Available in fewer languages

Video interpretation is available in fewer languages than phone interpretation. However, if a video interpreter is unavailable for a spoken language, CyraCom can quickly route you to an available phone interpreter.

  1. Possible equipment purchase

Some language services providers may require your organization to purchase equipment when using their service. Unlike some of our competitors, CyraCom does not require equipment purchases to access our video interpretation service. It is available via our Interpreter app and, which can be accessed and streamed through any number of devices, including mobile devices, tablets, or laptops.

If your organization is interested in using special equipment, however, there are certain circumstances where you may find it helpful. A video interpretation cart can be useful for situations where the patient’s view is obstructed, such as during a physical therapy session. CyraCom’s carts were constructed with health systems in mind: they are flexible, portable, and durable enough for daily use in a hospital; designed for infectious control compliance; and equipped with an external speaker for loud, clear audio.

Connect with CyraCom

When you choose CyraCom, you’ll gain access to both phone and video interpretation for the same low price for spoken languages. That way, you’ll have both options at your fingertips so you can respond to a variety of unique situations.

Want to learn more about how we can support you? Contact us by email at or online at