ULG's Language Services Blog

Control Costs & Improve Quality with Language Services in Healthcare

Posted by Leslie Iburg

As healthcare leaders continue to cope with rising costs and staffing shortages, they’re looking to do more with less. Yet cutting corners on translation and interpretation programs isn’t an option when it comes to providing quality care to members and patients with limited English proficiency (LEP).

With a growing diversity of the population and a host of regulatory mandates, engaging patients and members in their preferred languages from the start and throughout their journeys is vital to increasing access, improving outcomes, and reducing costs.

Optimizing Translation and Interpretation Programs

With a strategic plan in place, a big-picture approach built on cultural competence, and process optimization, healthcare organizations can achieve their goals while increasing support for patients and members and improving health outcomes. Leslie Iburg, a Strategic Healthcare Account Manager on our team, shares how to get started optimizing your language service provider partnership.

Conduct a language access plan audit

Before implementing or making changes to an existing language access plan, healthcare organizations must understand the goals they have for increasing access for the diverse populations they serve and also take stock of the current solutions in place.

They should assess gaps in their current language access plan, analyze their current processes and procedures, and identify areas for improvement.

When conducting an audit, it’s also important to look at organization-wide goals rather than a single condition or clinical service line.

For example, organizations could identify the most significant healthcare needs of the community or their populations, as well as the challenges that individual patients and members face and that may be preventing meaningful access.

This approach allows an organization and the owner of the language access plan to be proactive by understanding the needs and best practices within the organization.

It’s also important to consider the entire spectrum of language services depending on the population’s needs, preferences, culture, and abilities. Therefore, communications and education should be designed so that they are as effective in producing the same health outcomes for those with LEP as for those without.

Take a holistic view

For a language access plan to be effective, health organizations should look at areas of opportunity and various touchpoints throughout the patient or member journey.  Every touchpoint in the patient or member journey must be as accessible as it would be for native English speakers.

For example, you may consider:

  • translated preventative care campaigns, outreach, websites, and patient portals
  • culturally adapted communications, education and engagement campaigns
  • representatives who speak the member’s language from the start
  • interpreters who are available immediately when members call for assistance

Additionally, providing equitable access to a nurse care line can prevent patients from utilizing the emergency room, which is a high-cost driver.

In a systematic review that the journal Frontiers in Public Health published in 2021, 53% of studies found that physician–patient language concordance was linked with better clinical outcomes.

When individuals with LEP have equitable access from the start and throughout their journeys, outcomes improve, and health organizations save time and have lower costs.

Once a program is in place, organizations should continue to measure the effectiveness of the various solutions for their populations and be flexible and agile to combine services or change their approaches.

Identify opportunities to drive efficiency

Finding ways to improve efficiency allows organizations to invest the time and resources they have gained into expanding equitable access efforts.

This could be through cultural adaptation, a data-driven approach that integrates an individual’s cultural norms, beliefs, values, language and literacy skills and can be applied to all communications.

It could also be through a member engagement program.

One way to drive efficiency is by implementing optimized workflows and advanced automation technology along with qualified translators to translate standardized forms and information such as medical claims, annual enrollment materials, and explanation of benefits (EOBs), which ensures regulatory compliance and saves time and resources.

Look for the right partner to optimize translation and interpretation programs

Working with a translation and interpretation solution allows healthcare organizations to get a comprehensive understanding of their patient and member populations, identify gaps, and develop opportunities that will improve access and outcomes.

A partner with deep subject matter expertise and experience understands the complexities of healthcare and can create innovative strategies that address an organization’s goals.

When evaluating potential partners, here are some features to look for:

  1. Industry-specific knowledge. Engage with a partner that has healthcare experience and can address industry-specific needs that are relevant to your type and size of organization.
  2. Customized solutions. Any company can do translation, but not all understand the industry challenges and needs, and therefore can’t provide customized solutions.
  3. Compliance standards. A partner must also be HIPAA- and PHI- compliant and HITRUST certified.
  4. A holistic and centralized approach. A common mistake that organizations make is engaging with multiple vendors for their interpretation, translation, community engagement, and marketing projects, which creates inefficiencies and redundancies.

Overall, prioritize the value of a potential partnership rather than the cost. Working with one partner that can address all areas of the journey, is flexible, focused on continuous improvement, and views your organization as an important customer regardless of your size or revenue is vital to a successful partnership.

Ready to optimize your translation and interpretation programs? Contact our healthcare language solution experts



Topics: Healthcare