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No Longer Lost in Translation

A near death in the family prompts two brothers to create the first digital-video link between doctors, patients and live translators.


Who: Andrew Panos, 43, and Edward Panos, 37

What:Language Access Network, a groundbreaking new service that provides hospitals and pharmacies accurate, live-video translations for more than 150 languages

Where: Columbus, Ohio

People rely on doctors every day to treat them in emergencies. What would you do, though, if the doctor was unable to help you, simply because you didn't speak the same language? That was the scary reality for Andrew and Edward Panos, whose older brother nearly died in Mexico from injuries sustained in a car accident because Andrew was unable to communicate with the doctors. Several years later, Andrew heard a physician in Ohio speaking about the same communication problem. He knew something had to be done to breach the language barrier between doctors and patients to prevent mistakes and even deaths.

Language Access Network is the first company to offer live-video interpreters to doctors and their patients 24 hours a day. Using a wireless system called Martti (My Accessible Real-Time Trusted Interpreter), doctors can connect to a call center with the touch of a button, where they're greeted by an operator and connected to the appropriate interpreter in less than two minutes.

"Healthcare providers want to quickly diagnose the problem," says CEO Michael Guirlinger, who adds that on-site interpreters cost hospitals more money and valuable time. "Waiting for an interpreter slows this process and may cause guess work about a patient's condition, putting everyone at risk."

When a patient is in a hospital, all parties--the doctor, nurse, clinician, patient and the patient's family--need to be able to understand each other and the medical terminology being used. "For instance, English-speaking people use the term 'cat scan' and don't give it a second thought," Guirlinger says. "For someone who's Limited English Proficient, there may be no equivalent in their language, and they may wonder why someone wants to rub a cat on their tummy. Just being able to help the patient understand the meaning of words in context goes a long way to helping someone get better."

Martti provides access to more than 50 translators with the ability to interpret more than 150 languages, including American Sign Language. All translators work from a central call center in Columbus, Ohio, which allows Language Access Network to offer more training and team building, and to monitor the quality of their work. More than 100 translator applicants are currently awaiting review.

Started in 2004 for more than $1.5 million, Language Access Network uses a cell phone-based revenue model; clients purchase monthly packages of 1,000-minute increments, based on their need. Depending on the usage, LAN charges between $1.75 and $2.95 per minute for each call.

Currently more than 20 hospital facilities use Martti, and pilot programs are in place with Walgreen's, CVS and Kroger pharmacies. By the end of 2007, Language Access Network hopes to grow its client base to more than 50 hospitals, and is looking to eventually include banking and financial services, county healthcare systems, legal/court systems and first responders. Through their efforts, the Panos brothers are hoping to save families the same heartbreak and worry they went through.