by Scott Brown
Kiosk Program Provides Limited English Speakers with Virtual Care
The rising number of non-English and multi-lingual speakers in California has created significant communication barriers in healthcare settings, resulting in challenges for providers and worse health outcomes for patients.
When patients and clinicians cannot understand each other, the risk of misdiagnosis, under-diagnosis, duplicative testing and inappropriate prescribing increases. Additionally, patients that experience language barriers are less likely to seek care, build trusting relationships with providers, or adhere to treatment programs.
Effective communication between a clinician and patient is critical for safety and quality of care.
To assist limited-English speakers, Anthem Blue Cross has deployed hundreds of digital solutions kiosks in health centers across the state to provide real-time audio and video interpretation services from LanguageLine, as well as access to telehealth.
The kiosks help clinicians overcome communication barriers and improve service to the growing number of non-English speaking residents in California.
More Than 240 Languages Available
Anthem has deployed more than 200 of these digital kiosks inside 80 health centers in the past six months with plans to install hundreds more across California.
This effort is helping health centers establish stronger relationships with limited-English speakers, as well as the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.
“Effective communications between a clinician and patient is critical for safety and quality of care because this is how clinicians determine appropriate diagnosis and treatment plans,” said Dr. Demetria Malloy, Anthem Blue Cross Medical Director. “When language barriers exist, the risk of incorrect diagnosis, duplicative testing and inappropriate prescribing increases. Language barriers may make individuals less likely to seek care or build trusting relationships with their doctors and less likely to adhere to treatment programs.”
The kiosks include Wi-Fi enabled tablets that allow treating clinicians to engage professional LanguageLine interpreters without having to pre-schedule in-person interpreter appointments or wait with third-party call centers. More than 240 languages are accessible, including American Sign Language. The tablets can also be used to provide comprehensive, whole-person care by enabling access to medical specialists via telehealth and information about free community resources to address non-medical needs.
These live interpretation services are similar to engaging onsite interpreters, but are available on-demand. The tablets are also pre-configured for telehealth visits using multiple video conferencing platforms. This added value is especially important during the current COViD-19 health crisis. Additionally, the kiosks can be used to access patient and health plan portals, look up patient health insurance information, and access available community resources.
A Digital-First Approach
"Anthem Blue Cross is adopting a digital-first approach to our work and connecting with consumers when they want and how they want, putting them at the center of everything we do," said Joel Gray, who led the project for Anthem Blue Cross. “While developing this solution, Anthem considered the diverse needs of our members, and how we could help care providers be more efficient. We then strategically built-in innovative features that are important tools amid the evolving healthcare landscape and essential during the ongoing pandemic.”
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WellSpace Health is one of the first health systems to utilize Anthem’s kiosks to improve services for their patients.
“The Anthem Blue Cross digital solutions kiosks are a tremendous benefit for the people we serve,” said Dr. Jonathan Porteus, CEO of WellSpace Health, a community health system that serves more than 100,000 people in Sacramento, Placer, and Amador counties. “Without the kiosks, our patients and healthcare providers were forced into a quagmire of perilous communication. Thanks to Anthem Blue Cross, we can speak clearly with each other in any language, on-demand, to achieve better health for everyone.”
To learn more about the availability of interpretation services and technology, Anthem Blue Cross members should contact their treating physician or call the member services number on their Anthem ID card.
Working with LanguageLine
To make this initiative a success, Anthem Blue Cross has addressed and overcome a significant billing and claims reimbursement challenge. Historically, healthcare providers have been responsible for working directly with interpretation service venders to manage all billing and claims reimbursement for on-demand video interpretation services. This responsibility carries added financial and administrative burdens for healthcare providers, and presents challenges when it comes to scaling the technology within complex multi-payer health care delivery systems.
To overcome these barriers, Anthem Blue Cross partnered with LanguageLine to develop a first-to-market solution that is compatible with health insurance reimbursement models.
During initial development phases, LanguageLine established a process to collect and store patient health insurance information at the time of service. Significant operational changes were made that enabled LanguageLine to use the collected information to bill Anthem Blue Cross directly for interpretation services provided for Anthem’s Medi-Cal members.
In future phases, the LanguageLine will develop the ability to look up patients’ insurance eligibility status ahead of initiating services, which further helps to streamline the insurance billing process.
Anthem is the first health plan to participate in this multi-payer solution, which is already reducing costs and administrative burdens for many health centers.
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