Signing an agreement with a language services provider is a big step toward making your organization more accessible for everyone, but it’s not enough.
Merely having services available will not improve the patient experience or guard against lawsuits unless you are using those services to their full potential and the people you serve know how to access them.
Language access isn’t just a box to be checked; it’s a long-term commitment and an investment. Here are four ways to ensure you get the best return on that investment.
Establish a Language Access Plan
A language-access plan is your organization’s blueprint for implementing language services. It outlines the services you will provide on-site, over the phone, or via video remote interpreting, as well as any document translation that may be necessary. Your plan should also list practical steps your organization will take to ensure everyone is aware of the services you offer and knows how to request them.
Assign a Person Responsible for Implementing Your Plan
The best-laid plans tend to end up in a filing cabinet unless someone is held accountable for executing them. It’s not always clear who should be responsible for implementing a language access plan, but there are some guidelines you can follow to help you decide.
Consider who works most closely with the populations who need language access and who has authority over the staff on the front lines. For instance, in a social services organization where case managers work on the front lines, the director should be responsible for ensuring they are properly trained in how to use language services.
Review Data to Measure ROI
It can be difficult to make the case for language services when your leadership team is only concerned about the bottom line, but it’s ultimately up to you to prove its worth.
That’s why it’s helpful to track the following data and share it with your team:
- Call volume
- Average cost per call (total annual cost/call volume)
- Average call resolution time (has this decreased since using language services?)
- Customer satisfaction rate (has this increased since using language services?)
Of course it’s impossible to quantify all the benefits of language services — such as opportunities to serve new populations and avoiding lawsuits — but this data is a good place to start.
Revisit Your Plan Regularly
Your language needs will change with the demographics in the areas you serve. For instance, although more than half of the Hispanic population in the United States was spread among 15 metropolitan areas in 2014 — including Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Houston and San Bernardino, California — the three counties with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations are in North Dakota, according to Pew Research.
Your leadership team should periodically monitor population trends and consider whether the language services you offer are keeping up with changing needs.
Consider these questions as you review your language access plan:
- Are we seeing an increase in a specific population?
- Have we experienced an increase in complaints related to language access in the past year?
- What is our average response time for providing language services, and is it appropriate for the work we do? (For example, in a healthcare setting, can we provide access 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at a moment’s notice?)
- Have we seen a significant increase in costs associated with language services (interpreter travel, translation costs) in the past year?
- Are there more cost-effective solutions we should consider, such as video remote interpreting?
If you want to make the most of your investment in language services but don’t know where to start, we can help. Our team can assess your current language access plan, help your team with implementation and training, and more. Contact us today to talk about your needs for the coming year.