Health systems are embracing virtual care to expand patient access, including virtual healthcare intepretation options.
Merrie dives into what these changes mean for language service providers.
In a recent survey by the Center for Connected Medicine called “Top of Mind for Top Health Systems,” providers surveyed were asked “What problem in health care has the greatest potential to be improved with digital health technology and innovation?” The top answer? Patient access.
Since 2019, Medicare Advantage plans have allowed for telehealth visits, but in 2019 as few as 8% of patients had taken advantage of telehealth despite 66% saying they would be open to telehealth visits. Jumpstarted by the pandemic, the number of patients who have now adopted telemedicine jumped drastically. As early as June of 2020, a Doctor.com survey found 50% of 1800 patients surveyed had used telemedicine in the past three months.
What do these numbers mean for language service providers?
The increased demand from patients for telehealth solutions and provider-driven concerns around expanding access mean that healthcare interpretation solutions will need to meet the push for virtual solutions. The same Center for Connected Medicine study showed that 74% of systems are likely to see investment in patient access technology in the next year. A mass upgrade to healthcare technology on this scale is the perfect inflection point for language service providers to prove the value add their services could be for patient access.
97% of physicians reported treating at least some patients who have difficulty understanding English. To meet that incredibly high interpretation demand, the upcoming telehealth adoption must include interpretation options. Language service providers who want healthcare to be a significant portion of their client base need to pivot toward virtual integration in order to remain competitive as a healthcare language support option.
Security expectations during the pandemic
The US Health & Human Services Office (HHS) has issued temporary permission for providers to use a wider range of video conferencing technology during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency. However, even if language service providers can temporarily use these mainstream platforms to offer interpretation, a deep understanding of the security required to protect sensitive healthcare information is essential for healthcare solutions. Partnerships like the one just announced between Cerner and Zoom underscore the healthcare industry’s need for long-term, customized healthcare interpretation solutions. When talking to potential healthcare partners, language service providers need to reinforce that there will be an end to this temporary loosening of rules and position themselves as a solution to the coming enforcement.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has put together a toolkit for providers to step into the telehealth world. In this toolkit, CMS tells providers to enter business associate agreements (BAAs) that are HIPAA compliant in connection with video communication products. Language service providers who are participating in these virtual conferences will also be expected to maintain HIPAA compliance. Working with a third-party video communication provider who independently maintains their security compliance will reduce the liability and administrative burdens for language service providers hoping to use their interpreters in these virtual settings.
For long-term stability, language support providers should also consider providing a technological solution that is completely compliant and not just authorized for temporary use by HHS. As language service companies seek to partner with healthcare providers, stakeholders should be made aware of the benefits to a platform that won’t require reworking or replacing when the temporary authorization is lifted.
What does virtual healthcare interpretation look like for language service providers?
Also included in the CMS toolkit is a list of common ways to introduce an interpreter to a healthcare appointment. These include:
- Securely including the interpreter in a virtual video room
- Keeping the provider and patient on video, with the interpreter on speaker phone
- Holding a 3-way telephone call with the provider, patient, and interpreter (over the phone)
At Boostlingo, our platform supports any of these solutions. When language service providers are looking for technology solutions to help them integrate into healthcare, they need to make sure their platform can support all the common ways doctors are virtually getting connected to their patients.
The ability to seamlessly integrate into a health system’s existing technology framework is crucial. If the provider is temporarily using Zoom, the ability to add an interpreter in on Day One of the contract is essential. If there is a larger health technology network at play, such as an electronic health record (EHR) system with video function, the ability to connect into that larger network is a must for most healthcare providers.
Open API, or publicly available application programming interface, means that an IT team at a hospital will have direct access to help their application speak with an interpreting application. At Boostlingo, we’ve adopted Open API so that our interpretation platform can connect with existing healthcare technology. A huge selling point for language service providers using our technology is that our software can be taught to talk with a hospital’s existing software without having to change the existing system.
When thinking about virtual healthcare interpretation, fitting into the hospital’s technology landscape means less training and less headache for healthcare administrators. If a language service provider wants to be competitive in the telehealth landscape, flexible technology opens doors to bigger systems.
Language support as part of the wider patient access conversation
As I mentioned before, providers number one hope for digital health technology and innovation is to increase patient access. Patients who do not speak English are less likely to use patient portals because of technological and language barriers. Language service providers have always been able to position themselves as a solution to access problems by providing interpretation. Now, those same language service companies can be a part of the technological solution when they adapt interpretation technology that works seamlessly in the environment of a growing number of telehealth appointments.
Simplify healthcare interpretation for busy providers
When selling to healthcare systems, language service providers need to emphasize how they’ll make doctors and administrators’ days easier. Give administrators tips for getting their doctors comfortable with telehealth. Talk about health appointments like you’ve been in one (because you have) and explain where the interpreter fits into that process. Choose an interpretation technology solution that will slide into the telehealth workflow of the healthcare systems you’re trying to sell to.
At Boostlingo, our focus is on giving health systems an all-in-one experience when they log into our platform used by language service providers. Scheduling, billing, and hosting video and voice calls all take place in one secure environment with one login. Simplifying the way patient access is provided and understanding the telehealth revolution happening at large will put you ahead of the game for potential health system customers.
Even before the pandemic, surveys showed that most people were interested in using telehealth. Now, the number of people actually booking those telehealth appointments has grown to reflect that interest. 83% of patients expect to use telehealth after the pandemic. Especially for routine appointments like prescription refills, providers will be expected to provide virtual options even after the public health emergency fades. As a language service provider who has done their homework and implemented smart interpretation technology solutions, you can be ready to help health systems meet the virtual healthcare revolution.
How has virtual healthcare interpretation changed your workplace in 2021? Let us know in the comments!