Optimizing communication during a doctor appointment

By:  Michie O’Day

Appointments with our doctors, especially to learn about or discuss any serious medical condition, are one of the most frightening challenges for late-deafened adults.  Will the doctor (or other medical professional, now often a physician’s assistant) take the time and exhibit the patience we require to understand what he or she is telling us?  And if not, what important information will we miss?  Information that may affect how long we live, and will surely affect the quality of our lives.

Most of us rely on a combination of the physician’s note writing proficiency and willingness, our ability to read lips, perhaps a sign language interpreter, a friend or spouse to accompany us to the appointment and remember enough of what the doctor said to share it with us later.  It’s all scary stuff.

But now we have a new option.  Most late-deafened adults are familiar with CART  (communication access realtime translation).  It is similar to closed-captioning, which we see on TV and in movies and which the general public now sees on TVs in bars, airports and other noisy places.  There are CART interpreters in most states now, and some of them now have remote-CART technology.  Remote-CART enables them to provide a live, real-time transcript from their office to your location.  All you need is a computer with current internet access software and a phone line, which is available in many examining rooms at major medical centers now, and a good speaker phone.

The good news is that this accommodation for our deafness is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA).  All you need to do is contact the Interpreter Services office of the hospital where you will have your doctor appointment and tell them you need a CART interpreter – and then be ready to do a lot of follow-up and explaining, especially if you are the first person who has ever requested CART.  Be prepared to be tenacious, but polite.  And give them as much notice as you can.

The other good news is that it gets easier each time you go back to the same facility.  Remote CART is new.  A learning curve is to be expected.  But, as everyone gets used to it, it becomes easier and more natural.

Since 2004, I’ve been requesting and benefiting highly from CART each time I see my neurologist at Mass General Hospital for follow up for my case of neurofibromatosis-2.  At my last appointment, we used remote CART provided by Captions Unlimited of Nevada, Inc.  Remote CART is more convenient and usually less expensive than having a CART interpreter on site.

This leads to my last point.  CART is wonderful for us late-deafened adults.  It is the closest we’ll ever get to real hearing again.  Because the interpreters go through extensive training and are highly skilled, it is not cheap.  Thanks to the ADA, the patient does not have to pay for it.  The hospital does.  Please be sure to thank all parties involved (the interpreter services office, your physician, the CART interpreter) for providing this important service for you.

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