Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As telemedicine use explodes during the pandemic, language interpretation services have lagged behind.

Why it matters: Telemedicine has been a vital lifeline, but if it's going to fully supplement conventional health care, it needs to be able to serve everyone — including people with little or no English skills.

Driving the news: A report this month by FAIR Health found telehealth claims increased by 8,336% nationally between April 2019 and April 2020, rising to 13% of all claims.

  • That increase was almost entirely due to the effects of the pandemic lockdown, which kept patients out of hospitals and doctors' offices.

Yes, but: The nearly 10% of the American population that has limited English proficiency risks being left behind by the telehealth boom, says Kristin Quinlan, the CEO of Certified Languages International. "Too few telehealth platforms are working to build in services for video interpretation."

  • Federal law mandates that any health care provider who received federal funding or reimbursement must provide language access services to patients with limited English proficiency.
  • But that's easier said than done in a country where residents speak hundreds of languages, Quinlan says.

Certified Languages International offers remote interpretation services that can be connected to telehealth calls — including in video, which is important for registering the body language of both providers and patients.

  • Minneapolis-based Allina Health has integrated interpretation into its telemedicine services, notes Frederick Bw’Ombongi, Allina's vice president for access management. "We don't want our most vulnerable patients to be left behind."

The bottom line: It's important to ensure that new technologies are designed to be fair before they become established — not after.

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Jul 17, 2020 - Health

Telehealth is unlikely to replace physical doctor's visits, even with 5G

Axios chief technology correspondent Ina Fried (L) with Mei Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. Screenshot: Axios

Boosting telehealth services with 5G likely won't eliminate the need for physical doctor's visits, Mei Kwong, executive director for the Center for Connected Health Policy, said on Friday during an Axios virtual event on Friday.

The big picture: Telehealth has experienced massive growth during the coronavirus pandemic, as more health providers have had to pivot services for patients stuck at home.

GOP plans "nightly surprise" for revamped convention

President Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

The reworked Republican National Convention will be a four-night spectacle including still-under-wraps venues, a 10 p.m. "nightly surprise" and guests and themes playing to "the forgotten men and women of America," two senior Trump campaign officials involved tell Axios.

Driving the news: The messaging will focus heavily on "very granular details" of what a second term for President Trump would look like — answering a question Trump left hanging in a Fox News event earlier this summer — and attack cancel culture, "radical elements" of society and threats to public safety.

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Axios-Ipsos poll: Fear of voting

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.0% margin of error for the total sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to worry about in-person voting — with nearly two in three seeing it as a large or moderate risk to their health — according to this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This could pose a significant disadvantage for Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in November if the pattern holds — especially in states where high infection rates persist, or where there are significant hurdles to mail-in, absentee or early voting.