3 Lessons from a Language Services Leader | Boston Medical Case Study
CyraCom recently partnered with language services leader Boston Medical Center to create a case study. BMC is a 496-bed academic medical center located in Boston’s historic South End and dedicated to providing “consistently excellent and accessible health services to all in need of care regardless of status or ability to pay – exceptional care, without exception.”
Boston Medical Center is the largest safety net hospital and the busiest trauma and emergency services center in New England. Underserved populations comprise 59% of BMC’s patients, and 31% do not speak English as their primary language.
“Spanish is our most commonly-requested language – more than half of our interpreter encounters,” explained Elida Acuna-Martinez, BMC’s Director of Interpreter Services. “After that, Haitian Creole and Cape Verdean represent 14% and 6%, respectively. We serve one of the largest refugee populations in the Boston area.”
In a recent interview with CyraCom, Acuna-Martinez shared several tips for providers seeking to provide quality care to their LEP patients:
1. Embrace the Challenges of a Diverse Patient Population
“We take care of patients even if they don’t have insurance,” explained Elida Acuna-Martinez, BMC’s Director of Interpreter Services. “We partner with 14 community health centers, and our MassHealth plan, BMC HealthNet, is the largest in the state.”
BMC is the largest safety net hospital and the busiest trauma and emergency services center in New England. Underserved populations comprise 59% of BMC’s patients, and 31% do not speak English as their primary language.
BMC’s work with their diverse community has yielded a number of awards and recognitions:
- Named as Leader in The Human Rights Campaign Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) for meeting all criteria for LGBT patient-centered care.
- Recognized by America’s Essential Hospitals as one of six member hospitals for working to improve quality and population health in their community and beyond.
- Received the annual Academic Pediatric Association Health Care Delivery Award for outstanding leadership in the area of child health.
2. Enlist Executive Support
BMC’s executive team understands the importance of language services and makes it a priority. When addressing Boston’s diversity at speaking events, executives regularly highlight Acuna-Martinez’s successful program.
“Starting from the CEO and all the way down, everyone knows interpreter services because everyone needs us at one point or another,” she noted. “Depending on the clinic, the vast majority of the patients we treat may be LEP.”
BMC’s on-site language services program provides 24/7 coverage for Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian, and Cape Verdean. Hospital staff can book an interpreter ahead of time for particular patient encounters, specifying language and appointment time.
3. Ensure your Language Services Team Shares your Passion
After acting as an interpreter at Mass General for 11 years, Acuna-Martinez joined BMC, serving as coordinator, supervisor, and now Director of Interpreter Services over the last 7 years. Though she no longer interprets on a day-to-day basis, her passion for the work remains strong.
“You know you made a difference in somebody’s life because you helped them, and it’s so rewarding,” she added. “That’s why I feel like it’s not a job – I do something I love and get paid for it.”
Acuna-Martinez’s staff shares her passion and experience. “I have a Spanish interpreter who has worked for BMC for 45 years,” she explained. “We have a Somali Interpreter who was one of the first to settle in Boston – a leader in the community. Same thing goes for our Ethiopian interpreter – he runs a community-based organization and attracts a lot of patients for that reason.”
Download the full Boston Medical Case Study to learn more about the challenges of caring for a diverse patient community and the partnerships BMC has embraced to overcome them.
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