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Hot Topics for Language Services in Healthcare for 2014

First of all, Happy New Year from everyone here at CyraCom!

I’m Jason Roberson, the Healthcare Language Services Director at CyraCom, and I have had over 10 years of experience working in the medical interpretation industry. I often hear about what topics are on the minds of our clients, and I would like to share my expertise and cover these topics through 2014 on this blog.

As we begin 2014, I’d like to take a look at a few of the important issues that will be of interest in the coming year to everyone who is involved in language services in healthcare.  We have seen many of these issues over the past months and years, but they will continue to be vital to all of us who provide interpretation and translation services for Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients across the country.

1. The Affordable Care Act & LEP Populations

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) aims to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, improve the overall quality of healthcare, and contain healthcare costs.  Under the ACA, more individuals who are LEP will have insurance, will access health services more frequently, and will prefer to receive these services in languages other than English.

However, there are significant challenges and risks for LEP communities and the healthcare organizations that serve them:  greater risk for negative health outcomes, higher rates of readmission, longer lengths of stay, etc.

Also, given the incentives and penalties associated with the ACA, serving both insured and uninsured LEP patients will become more expensive.  The cumulative effect is a major incentive for healthcare organizations to provide the most effective services possible for LEP patients before, during, and after treatment.

For more information on the ACA and LEP populations, take a look at the ACA whitepaper on the CyraCom websitehere.

2. Patient Satisfaction, HCAHPS Surveys, & LEP Patients

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), hundreds of thousands of Americans will receive health insurance for the first time, and many of these will be LEP.

The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey is the primary tool used to measure patient satisfaction in relation to ACA-based initiatives as well as Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) reimbursement models.

Unfortunately, hospitals’ efforts to improve overall HCAHPS Survey scores are often less successful with LEP patient populations and, conversely, service improvements for LEP patients often are not reflected in improved HCAHPS scores due to low survey response rates.  Evaluating LEP patient satisfaction through the lens of language access is a productive way to generate productive conversations about the connection between effective communication, improved service, and satisfaction.

For more information about HCAHPS surveys and LEP patients, take a look at the HCAHPS whitepaper on the CyraCom website here.

3. Technology:  Video Remote Interpreting in Language Services

The incorporation of Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) into an existing Language Services program allows healthcare organizations to increase efficiency and to provide more timely and cost-effective services to its LEP patients.

Scheduling of onsite interpreters for both spoken languages and for American Sign Language (ASL) can be challenging in some localities due to availability and budgetary constraints.  In time-critical and emergency situations, the use of VRI may be the fastest way to provide a qualified healthcare interpreter.

CyraCom has written a case study describing the use of VRI at Dignity Health’s Mercy Medical Center in Northern California.  Access the case study here.

For These Issues and More: CyraCom (and Jason!) Has Your Back

These topics are just the beginning; over the next year I plan to cover such topics as:

  1. How to prepare for the Joint Commission.
  2. How to stratify patient satisfaction by language.
  3. How to review your four factor analysis and update your language access plan with a new assessment of your patient demographics through a community survey.
  4. How to spot check patient records for LEPs and check if interpreting services have been provided through the care process.
  5. How to review the language access plan about interpreter modalities, and how to know which modality to use in which situation.

The language services in healthcare community can anticipate even stricter regulations and more uncertainty about how to face these critical issues serving your LEP patients. CyraCom will be with you along the way to provide support and solutions through our services and products and through whitepapers, case studies, and weekly blog posts.

Thank you for reading, and here’s to a great 2014!

Learn about Lee Health's leading language services program in the latest CyraCom case study.   Download Now