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Breaking Language Barriers with Mobile Care: Q&A with Albert Santiago

By 20/20 Onsite
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People with language barriers often struggle to get the care they need, and they may even avoid seeking care altogether. At 20/20 Onsite, we want every patient who comes aboard a Mobile Vision Clinic to feel welcome. That’s why we’ve built a welcoming environment where patients can feel confident that their concerns will be heard and understood.

Albi Santiago

Read our interview with Regional Manager of ECT and Fleet Operations, Albert (Albi) Santiago, to understand the importance of bridging language barriers in clinical care.

As Regional Manager of ECT and Fleet Operations, what are your primary roles and responsibilities? And how does your cultural background inform your work at 20/20 Onsite? 

My primary role with 20/20 Onsite is to make sure our wheels keep turning–literally. I am responsible for the maintenance and repair of our Mobile Vision Clinics and their equipment. I also coordinate the complex logistics involved with delivering healthcare. 

Traveling the country to see patients for clinical study assessments, follow-ups, and prescreening for new clinical trials requires lots of planning. I outline travel routes, organize flights and hotel stays and identify visit locations for the Mobile Vision Clinic. I also handle patient communications, scheduling, and relationship-building. I’m also certified to jump on board and perform assessments when needed. 

I come from a Puerto Rican family and grew up in the projects. Although money was tight growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by so much diversity. I attended a vocational school where I graduated with honors before joining the Marine Corps. 

How did you get involved in healthcare? 

I started my healthcare career as a Lab Manager for LensCrafters. There, I fell in love with crafting glasses for people in need of better vision. After 5 years, I was offered the opportunity to disrupt the optometry industry and do something that no one else is doing as part of the 20/20 Onsite team—delivering eye care directly to the patients on a Mobile Vision Clinic. I thought this was an incredible concept.

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Albi posing in front of Mount Rushmore as he travels the country to deliver on-site clinical care to patients. 

How do you feel about the FDA’s recently issued draft guidance recommending sponsors outline a Race and Ethnicity Diversity Plan? And what is 20/20 Onsite doing to increase clinical trial access in diverse communities? 

One of the biggest problems in healthcare and clinical trials is access. By increasing access to care, we may be able to give someone the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, and that could be a life-saving decision. 

I can plainly say I think 20/20 Onsite and our Mobile Visions Clinics are the solutions we need to solve access challenges. Our Mobile Clinics are well-equipped, and they can be modified to fit the needs of many clinical trials.

We eliminate the burden of travel because we travel to the patient. There’s also no need to take multiple days off from work or find a babysitter, and children participating in clinical trials won’t need to miss multiple days of school. Plus, with multiple COVID-19 variants still lingering, patients can avoid unnecessary travel and potentially prevent exposure.

As a member of the Hispanic community, what do you think would motivate others from your culture to participate in clinical trials? 

Awareness and education are essential. Many people just don't know about or understand that there are opportunities to receive care or participate in clinical trials. There is also a lot of confusion about what participation in clinical trials entails. Our health systems need to make it simple and easy to understand, so they can gain the trust of potential patients.

How is the patient experience impacted by having someone who can speak Spanish on board the Mobile Vision Clinic?

When I notice a patient is reserved or struggling to communicate, I start to speak Spanish and their eyes usually light up and their comfort level rises. 

I remember visiting a school where I met a very shy Hispanic student. She came on board for a free eye exam and pro-bono glasses. She had never worn glasses before, and she had trouble speaking English. I walked her through her check-in process, then I helped perform her pre-screening test. She was particularly nervous about the "puff" test, but I talked and joked with her throughout the process to make her more comfortable, and she almost forgot we even did the puff test. 


Our OD asked if I could go in and translate during the exam with the patient's consent. She was able to express herself through me which made her experience smoother. She ended up needing glasses to see the board better during class. At the end of the exam, I remember the school nurse saying they had never seen her talk so much.

What would you like to tell biopharma leaders about the importance of diversity in research? 

There are far more people in need than we are able to access using current methods. What we need now is to think outside of the box, and that’s what we have been doing since the wheels first started turning at 20/20 Onsite. 

I have the privilege of taking part in not only the planning but also the patient experience. I get to see the appreciation in their eyes as well as hear about how grateful they are for having us come to see them at their home or close to it. My goal is to bring access to care for everyone, no matter who or where they are.

20/20 Onsite’s diverse staff play a pivotal role in our effort to improve access to care for all patients–regardless of where they are or what language they speak. To learn more about our incredible team, read the Q&A with Nabil Aslani.

To find out how 20/20 Onsite can help your clinical trial reach diverse communities and improve the patient experience, contact us.


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