Imagine you speak limited English. You’ve recently gone through surgery. The in-language experience at the hospital was excellent, as you were provided with interpretation at every point from registration to discharge. You return home feeling confident in your prognosis.
Unfortunately, you soon experience swelling and discomfort. The medication that should help you manage isn’t doing the job. Something doesn’t feel right. Scared, you call the hospital in hopes of reaching your physician.
“Hello. How may I help you?” the operator asks in English.
What follows is a strained attempt to communicate. You are transferred from department to department without success. The longer it goes, the further you feel from getting your desired result.
Overwhelmed, intimidated, and frustrated, you hang up and suffer in silence.
Beyond the Moment of Truth
Healthcare providers often deliver an excellent in-language experience at the “moment of truth” – the point when the limited-English patient and the physician meet in the exam room. They may even succeed at providing a positive experience at registration and discharge.
But what happens when the limited-English patient returns home and must connect with a caregiver by phone?
Regrettably, the experience limited-English speakers have once they leave the building is an afterthought for many healthcare providers, as the pre- and post-visit portions of the patient journey are left incomplete when it comes to language assistance.
This has an adverse effect on all concerned. The limited-English patient’s health is put in jeopardy; meanwhile, the provider experiences increased costs in the form of readmissions, emergency room visits, extended call-handle times, and decreased patient satisfaction.
Fortunately there are state-of-the-art solutions that can help healthcare providers solve their hang-up problem: customized call flows that are designed to provide consistent support for inbound calls from patients.
Customized call flows allow the limited-English patient to be greeted in-language and then paired with an interpreter before the provider’s phone even rings. This results in a seamless in-language experience for the limited-English patient from one end of the call to the other.
Typical vs. Customized
A typical call flow involves a limited-English patient dialing a main number, then listening to a menu of options, as well as a prompt to hold for the next available operator. All of this takes place in English. The limited-English patient must either guess at the correct menu option or try to explain their needs to an English-speaking operator.
Patients often hang up as soon as they hear an English speaker rather than go through a phone maze that is likely to be daunting and unsatisfying.
In an effort to untie this language knot, leading healthcare providers are implementing customized call flows. Inventive and affordable, these solutions empower limited-English patients to contact the provider with a qualified interpreter already on the line.
Customized call flows take one of two forms:
In the first format, the patient is given a toll-free number that is dedicated to his or her language. After being greeted in their preferred language, the patient is immediately connected to an appropriate interpreter, who then directly connects to the healthcare provider.
In the second format, a limited-English patient calls a general number and is welcomed with a menu of available languages. After choosing the one that applies and hearing a friendly in-language greeting, they are connected to an interpreter in their language. The interpreter and patient then connect with the provider.
An interpreter remains by the patient’s side the entire time in both formats. This results in a simplified patient journey that eliminates frustration and makes hang-ups and lengthy call-handle times a thing of the past.
LanguageLine’s customized call-flow solution is known as Direct Response. It is an ideal solution for scheduling appointments, routing callers to appropriate departments, handling follow-up consultations, assisting in medication management, and running hotlines.
We are hosting an upcoming webinar that expands on the models above. Top healthcare providers and insurers will share how they have implemented customized call flows to enhance the journeys of their limited-English patients and members.
The session is called “How Customized Call Flows Are Fixing the Phone Maze for Limited-English Patients and Members.” It will take place Tuesday, December 4, at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT. We encourage you to register today, as spots are filling quickly.
LanguageLine is eager to help you provide a seamless in-language patient journey for limited-English speakers. Please contact us to learn more about how you and your patients can benefit from customized call flows.
Greg Marshall is Solutions Director for Voice Services at LanguageLine Solutions.