Olga Bruno, Keith Symons, and Maegan Kyser show off the new MVP of the Patient and Guest Relations department: MARTTI.

It’s no secret that Pennsylvania Hospital’s staff members work tirelessly to create a positive, welcoming environment, and to ensure a comfortable, safe experience for every patient who seeks care, but medical appointments can still be confusing and overwhelming. Add a language or cultural barrier into the mix, and unclear communication can lead not only to misunderstandings and frustration, but also to direct effects on patient outcomes.

That’s where the Patient and Guest Relations team and MARTTI (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter) come in.

Over the past year, PAH’s MARTTI units – mobile, adjustable-height, flat-screen tablets with both audio and audio-visual language translation capabilities – have transformed the hospital’s ability to quickly accommodate the needs of patients who are deaf, hard of hearing, or non-English speakers.

“The Patient and Guest Relations staff are committed to training employees on MARTTI and helping them become more comfortable with the platform. They work very hard to ensure all areas of the hospital have access to MARTTI when needed in order to improve the care experience for patients and staff alike,” said Eileen Murphy, MSL, director of Patient and Guest Relations and Volunteer Services.

Four of the local community’s most commonly spoken languages – Spanish, Arabic, American Sign Language (ASL), and Russian – are listed on the home screen, but users seeking a different language can connect with a live operator who then matches them with an available interpreter. The staff member stands behind the MARTTI to facilitate a normal, comfortable dialogue with the patient rather than the screen, and over time, even the most wary patients and staff have adapted easily to the new technology.


Patient coordinator Keith Symons shows Radiology patient services associate Marie McKinney how to utilize MARTTI when communicating with patients.

“If you have an iPhone, this is exactly like FaceTime,” said Keith Symons, a patient coordinator. “It’s very simple and user-friendly, and it’s much better for the patient because depending on the language they need, they can get the audio component and often a visual too. That’s of course important for ASL, but body language is also important, and it can also be comforting to see who you’re talking to.”

While live interpreters and phone calls certainly have their merits (especially in areas of spotty Internet), MARTTI provides an on-demand service that can easily follow a patient throughout the hospital, all while saving time, expediting care, and minimizing costs. All of the interpreters are trained in the industry and well-versed in medical terminology, which also bypasses the issue of family members or interpreters unfamiliar with healthcare jargon deciding which parts to translate or omit.

“In the past, if a patient came in and needed a live interpreter, their care was often put on hold,” said Olga Bruno, a patient coordinator. “If they needed surgery, they’d likely require translation services both before and after the procedure, so that interpreter would be booked for hours, waiting in the hospital. Even if a patient decides they’d prefer a live interpreter, we can get the process started with MARTTI in the meantime, and because MARTTI is mobile, it can move from admissions, to pre-admission testing, to the OR, to their follow-up appointments – wherever it’s needed.”

By providing high-quality language services that are accessible in seconds, MARTTI demystifies the healthcare process and ensures that patients and physicians can get on the same page more quickly and jump-start healing. Since its introduction in May 2017, MARTTI has logged over 4,600 minutes in the Emergency Department alone! During the first month, the two available MARTTIs filled in for about 3.5 hours of interpreter time. The next month saw a fivefold increase, and by May 2018, over 21,000 minutes had been logged on 18 MARTTI units. The data has identified Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, ASL, and Arabic as the top five language requests, but less common languages such as Tigrinya (spoken mainly in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia) and Fuzhou (a dialect spoken mainly in eastern Fujian province of China) have also racked up over one hundred minutes of interpretation time each – and this is only the beginning!

“The company is working really well with us to assess our data to make sure we’re accommodating our patients,” Bruno said. “We just passed our year mark, so we’ve been experimenting and learning the most frequently needed languages, the best strategies to introduce the MARTTI to patients and their families, and how to train staff and get them comfortable with the set-up. We’re excited to keep drawing from the feedback to better address the language needs of our patients.”

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