Remote Interpretation Service Assists Medical Staff at Bank of America Chicago Marathon


Over 10,000 runners in the 2014 Bank of America Chicago Marathon came from outside the United States, and while the number of international participants contributes mightily to the race’s reputation as a world class event, it also creates a communications challenge, particularly for participants with limited or no knowledge of English. These challenges may pose an inconvenience in certain circumstances, such as understanding the logistics of packet pickup, but have the potential to be a much larger problem when it comes to runners needing medical assistance.

To remedy this situation, last year the Bank of America Chicago Marathon became the first race to use Stratus, a video remote interpretation provider that allows users to connect with a translator through a video call placed on an iPad.

Primarily used in hospitals, Stratus connects users to translators in less than 30 seconds and provides round-the-clock interpretation services. Dr. George Chiampas, the medical director of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, became familiar with the technology through his work at Northwestern and helped connect the race with the company to integrate its services into the event in 2014 and 2015.

“It’s built as a translation services and is geared towards medical translation, but obviously in our circumstances, even being able to give information if [people] have come in for medical purposes but need to find their loved ones, get reconnected or get directions to gear check or the post-race party: all those things we can utilize this resource to assist runners and get them back where they need to get post-race,” Chiampas says.

The race also used Stratus technology during the Abbott Health & Fitness Expo to assist with general translating needs for international athletes.

“Running 26.2 miles is strenuous, and a lot of people don’t speak English,” Kate Pascucci, director of marketing with Stratus, says. “[With] iPads in medical tents, medical volunteers could call foreign language [services] as needed.”

The iPads and interpretation minutes, all donated by Stratus, helped the medical staff in finish line tents, and Chiampas expects to see its popularity among medical volunteers increase.

“A lot of our medical staff are folks that have been part of the event for years, so the more something is implemented in the program, it becomes second nature,” he says. “I anticipate as the years progress it will become a tool that more and more people will become familiar with and appreciate it.”

Pascucci says Stratus received more calls in 2014 than 2015 from the race, but found that the service especially helped spectators.

“We got more calls last year than we did this year, particularly from runners’ families that come to spectate and didn’t know where to go,” Pascucci says. “Volunteers were placing calls to give directions, so it works really well.”