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The Remote Interpretation Industry: Standards and Best Practices

Choosing a remote interpretation provider can be daunting.
Purchasers need to understand basic industry standards that professional interpretation companies follow in order to make
an educated purchasing decision. This whitepaper examines the practices and features of remote interpretation
industry standards, from interpreter qualifications to the latest technology to
achieve efficient, accurate, and secure interpretations.
The reader should walk away equipped to understand various
interpretation providers’ offerings, and be able to assess whether they exceed
industry standards or where they may be lacking.
Some interpretation providers may overpromise on what they can actually deliver,
especially if they are a small company trying to compete with major players in the
industry. This may include an unrealistic combination of low prices, free high-quality
equipment, the amount of languages they offer, and/or high quality interpretation.
The reality is that these promises are either not delivered as expected or the
provider may cut corners for quality elsewhere.
Phone interpretation is a three-way call between a non-English-speaking patient,
an English-speaking provider, and a bilingual interpreter. The service is often
available in hundreds of languages.
Provider and patient can be in the same room together using two phones or a
dual-handset telephone; or, the provider can dial out to the interpretation service
to call the patient at home.
Video Remote Interpretation relies on a videophone, web camera, or other video
technology so patients and providers can both see and hear an interpreter.
Typically VRI providers offer a more limited number of languages compared to
what is available for OPI. Some providers will claim to be capable of servicing an
extensive number of VRI languages, with a system prepared to rollover to OPI
when a video interpreter is not actually available.
OV E R – T H E – P H O N E
I N T E R P R E TAT I O N ( O P I )
V I D E O REMOT E
I N T E R P R E TAT I O N ( V R I )
A lack of investment in
infrastructure, technology, and
interpreter hiring/training/
certification/monitoring
May lead to long wait times,
dropped calls, and poor quality
interpretation
Overreliance on overseas
interpreters and infrastructure
May limit reliability, cultural
competency, and security
“Free” equipment, which may be
heavily subsidized through service
costs, hidden fees, and a poor design
May “cost” more later, with time
spent dealing with poor quality
equipment, learning walkarounds for
an unintuitive or ineffective setup,
and repair process
Higher per-minute prices and
monthly utilization requirements for
phone and video interpretation
May pay more for services in the
long run
WHERE QUALIT Y SHORTCUTS
MAY B E TAKEN:
HOW THESE SHORTCUTS MAY
AFFECT CLIENTS:
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Bids from providers should include a straightforward, per-minute price for
services, as well as equipment options and any additional services needed to
access the services. These may include software, toll-free numbers, a dedicated
account manager, client services representatives or operators, implementation
support, support materials, and reporting. If the provider does not make it clear
that those are included in their quote, you may be charged separately for each of
these features and services.
PROVISION O F S E R V I C E S THROUGH THEIR OWN I N T E R P R E TERS,
RATHER THAN AN OVERRELIANCE ON R E S E L L I N G.
The Language Services Industry 2018 Market by Common Sense Advisory (CSA)
explains that some interpretation providers resell services from smaller language
service providers, marking up prices in the process.
CSA found that an average of 25% of their respondents’ sales were to other
language services providers. These smaller companies may not have the
same standards of hiring, training, and quality monitoring that the larger
reseller promised.
RED F L AGS
• Promises that seem too good to be true, especially from a small and/or
young provider
• A bid that does not include equipment, software, reporting capabilities,
implementation support, or an account manager
• An interpretation “provider” that is actually a well-marketed middle man,
marking up and reselling services from other providers
An average of 25% of
interpretation provider
sales are to other language
services providers.
STANDA R D : INTERPRETER QUALIFICATIONS
AND VETTING
Purchasers should ask what kind of in-depth vetting process the providers follow
to ensure they are hiring quality interpreters. This may include:
LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY TESTING FOR POTENTIAL INTERPRETERS
Are interpreters required to pass a language assessment before beginning work
with the provider? What topics does the interpretation provider test on? Is the
provider specific or vague when sharing this information?
I N T E R P R E T E R LOCAT I O N S D E S I G N E D TO MAX I M I Z E C A L L
QUA L I T Y AND R E L I A B I L I T Y
Where are the majority of your calls going? For the interpreters taking the
majority of the provider’s call volume, where are they located? Do they work
from a contact center or another office? If not, do they have access to a
reliable phone line and a quiet, secure workspace?
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COMPREHENSIVE I N T E R P R E T E R T R A I N I N G
According to the 2018 Language Services Market, nearly 60% of language service
providers have only 2 to 5 full-time employees. 85% of global language service
providers have 20 or fewer employees, and less than 3% employ more than 100.
Most companies primarily rely on independent contractor interpreters, even
though currently in the US, interpretation providers cannot lawfully train
independent contractors.
As a result, interpretation providers with operations in the US must employ
interpreters in order to train and certify them. Other options for training or
certification do exist–such as language institutions, colleges, and for-profit
interpreting training agencies–but the length, difficulty level, and subjects taught
are not universally standardized.
85% have 20 or
fewer employees
60% have only 2-5
full-time employees
3% have more than
100 employees
A WORD ON INTERPRETER CERTIFICATION
Tremendous progress has been made over the last two decades to
develop a national medical interpretation certification. Two organizations
have released their own separate medical interpretation certifications:
The National Board of Certification of Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) first
released its national certification in December 2009, and the Certification
Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) launched its certification
program in early 2011. NBCMI and CCHI currently offer certification for
seven languages between the two of them, with more likely becoming
available in the future.
Some providers may claim that while they do not train their independent
contractor interpreters, that they will only use nationally certified
interpreters to take calls. If your language needs exceed the seven
languages currently offered for national certification, then providers need
to explain what else they do to vet their interpreters for quality.
BACKGROUND C H E C K S TO CONFIRM I N T E R P R E T E R
T R U S TWORT H I N E S S
Whenever permissible, providers should conduct background checks on
prospective interpreters to ensure they can reliably be trusted with confidential
information while interpreting.
RED F L AGS
• The interpretation provider lacks a standard procedure for vetting interpreters
or is vague about interpreter qualifications
• The provider does not require or provide training
• The provider does not run background checks on interpreters, even
where permitted
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STANDA R D : DATA SECURITY AND
INTERPRETER QUALITY MONITORING
Interpreting very frequently includes hearing and conveying private patient
information—medical conditions, social security numbers, payment information,
etc.—so data security is crucial.
I N T E R P R E T E R LOCAT I O N S CO N S I S T E N T WITH L E G A L
ACCOUNTA B I L I T Y
Some interpretation providers rely heavily on interpreters working from home
overseas. Should a data breach occur, these interpreters may be outside the
reach of the US justice system. A secure infrastructure, including processes to
manage security, confidentiality, and adherence to healthcare privacy laws
should be prioritized.
SECURE I N T E R P R E T E R WORK E N V I RONMENTS
Many interpretation providers claim to run contact centers without defining the
term. Some may list small storefront offices with less than 10 people or even
home offices as “contact centers,” although they lack the workforce and secure
infrastructure that the classification implies.
REGULAR Q UA L I T Y M O N I TORING THAT D O E S N OT
COMPROMISE C L I E N T DATA
Quality monitoring helps to confirm that interpreters are adhering to their training
and other policies, protocols, and best practices.
In order to protect privacy and confidentiality, an interpretation provider should conduct
real-time call monitoring and coaching for interpreters without recording calls.
Many interpretation
providers claim to run
contact centers without
defining the term. Some
may list small storefront
offices with less than 10
people or even home
offices as “contact centers,”
although they lack the
workforce and secure
infrastructure that the
classification implies.
RED F L AGS
• The interpretation provider does not have the infrastructure in place to keep
call information secure
• The interpretation provider does not have a process in place to verify
interpretation accuracy and adherence to best practices
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STANDA R D : INTERPRETER CONNECTION
PROCESS AND BILLING
E F F I C I E N T U S E O F AUTO-AUTHENTICAT I O N AND
I N T E R AC T I V E V O I C E R E S P O N S E F O R Q U I C K CONNEC T I O N S
Communications technology available to interpretation providers today includes
auto-authentication for account numbers and PINs and interactive voice response
(IVR) for choosing a language. If clients prefer to use this technology, it can shave
seconds or even minutes off each call.
If interpretation providers do not offer this technology, they should be transparent
that their Average Speed of Answer quotes may not include the time it takes to
connect to or speak to an operator.
TRANSPARENT, S E PARAT E B I L L I N G F O R I N T E R P R E T E R S AND
OTHER O P E R ATORS
If providers charge for time spent with an operator or a client services
representative, it should be very apparent to clients when they review their
invoices which per-minute charges are being applied to the interpretation session
versus support time with another agent.
RED F L AGS
• The interpretation provider excludes wait times spent in double queuing—
first for the operator, then for the interpreter—in their Average-Speed-of-
Answer claims
• The interpretation provider charges the same rate for speaking to an operator
as to the interpreter, or the provider charges interpretation rates for portions
of the call where interpretation is not being provided, such as talking to an
operator or client services.
STANDA R D : OPERATIONAL TRANSPARENCY
PHYSICAL OPERATIONS FOR SECURIT Y AND EMPLOYEE
INTERPRE TER CLAIMS
Some interpretation providers may claim to run contact centers but define the
term loosely or be misleading about the number of offices they have. Do they
provide publicly available information about these physical locations – addresses,
number of employees, square footage, and photographs? Providers should be
open to sharing information about their locations and should be willing to let
clients and prospects tour those locations.
DIAL
PROVIDER
HOLD FOR
OPERATOR
ENTER
CREDENTIALS
SELEC T
LANGUAGE
HOLD FOR
INTERPRETER
CONNECT TO
INTERPRETER
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DATA OPERATIONS FOR USAGE AND B I L L I N G CONFIRMATION
Interpretation providers should have the technology to provide near-real-time
interpretation utilization data and clear billing statements online. This provides
clients a platform to track usage between different departments, staff members to
create their own reports, and the ability to compare usage.
STAFF OPERATIONS FOR SUPPORT AND OPTIMIZATION
As a purchaser, your remote interpretation provider should be able to provide
access, at no additional cost, to a variety of support staff while you are using their
interpretation services:
• Dedicated account managers for optimizing utilization and answering client
questions
• Client services for troubleshooting or real-time feedback
• Implementation specialists for setting up the service
RED F L AGS
• The interpretation provider does not share information publicly about their
physical locations
• The interpretation provider does not provide an online platform to track
usage, create reports, or view billing statements for accuracy
• The interpretation provider does not provide access to knowledgeable staff as
part of their service offerings
DO YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LANGUAGE SERVICES INDUSTRY?
Reach out to our language services consultants today at info@cyracom.com.
ABOUT CYRACOM
In business since 1995, CyraCom is a leading provider of language services. We developed the largest network of
US-based, secure interpreter contact centers, where over 2,000 trained and certified employee interpreters work. We
support hundreds of languages and operate 24/7.
“…your remote
interpretation provider
should be able to provide
access, at no additional cost,
to a variety of support staff
while you are using their
interpretation services.”

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