Patients with limited English proficiency frequently receive substandard health care. Asynchronous telepsychiatry (ATP) has been established as a clinically valid method for psychiatric assessments. The addition of automated speech recognition (ASR) and automated machine translation (AMT) technologies to asynchronous telepsychiatry may be a viable artificial intelligence (AI)–language interpretation option.
This project measures the frequency and accuracy of the translation of figurative language devices (FLDs) and patient word count per minute, in a subset of psychiatric interviews from a larger trial, as an approximation to patient speech complexity and quantity in clinical encounters that require interpretation.
A total of 6 patients were selected from the original trial, where they had undergone 2 assessments, once by an English-speaking psychiatrist through a Spanish-speaking human interpreter and once in Spanish by a trained mental health interviewer-researcher with AI interpretation. 3 (50%) of the 6 selected patients were interviewed via videoconferencing because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Interview transcripts were created by automated speech recognition with manual corrections for transcriptional accuracy and assessment for translational accuracy of FLDs.
AI-interpreted interviews were found to have a significant increase in the use of FLDs and patient word count per minute. Both human and AI-interpreted FLDs were frequently translated inaccurately, however FLD translation may be more accurate on videoconferencing.
AI interpretation is currently not sufficiently accurate for use in clinical settings. However, this study suggests that alternatives to human interpretation are needed to circumvent modifications to patients’ speech. While AI interpretation technologies are being further developed, using videoconferencing for human interpreting may be more accurate than in-person interpreting.