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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.