Moving In-House Interpreters to the Right Patient at the Right Time


In-House Interpreters

CHICAGO, IL-Healthcare call centers have certainly played an active role over the years in handling calls from people who speak languages other than English. Some call centers have staff members who speak other languages and calls can be moved to them for handling if appropriate.

The sheer number of languages, however, greatly outnumbers the ability of healthcare call centers to handle everything in­ house. So that’s why outside medical interpreter services have found a home in the healthcare call center world. 

But what about the other side to the interpretation question. 

There are also increasing needs for in-person and in-house interpreters for the inpatients and outpatients moving through our healthcare organizations. 

In some cases the need for in-house interpreters can be so great that the department in charge of scheduling interpreters is overwhelmed. That’s exactly what happened at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Those calls came to me and it was non­ stop,” says Fabiola Romero, Supervisor of Language Services. “It was a whole job, just doing that.” 

Taking the calls was just the front end; staff members had to be assigned as well so patients could be taken care of. “I oversee a department with four part-time Spanish in-house interpreters and one part­ time Polish in-house interpreter,” she says. “I also have two Spanish and one Polish interpreter on the registry.” 

Starting that year, the hospital formed an arrangement with the Beverly Hills, California-based American Health Connection for this offsite call center to handle all incoming in-person interpreter calls and then schedule the interpretation interactions. Any clinical professional in the hospital can make the call for in-house interpreters. Calls are answered by American Health Connection, which has schedulers specifically dedicated to the hospital, along with other clients. 

In-house Interpreters are scheduled and if the appointment is for that day, they are paged. If it is for another day, then the interpreter sees their schedule when they arrive at work on that day and can go to their appointment. 

If there are no medical interpreters available, then the call center contacts Romero. It then becomes her job to sort it all out. If the new call fits into the emergency category, then she can ask the in-person interpreter to end their current session and go handle the emergency. In its place, she’ll arrange to have an interpreter from an outside translation company to complete the interaction long distance. 

On a typical day, the language services department handles 50 in-person interpretation requests. Its services, along with the American Health Connection schedulers, are available Monday through Friday, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Interpretation services after-hours and weekends fall to the clinical staff to arrange with an outside translation company.

About American Health Connection

American Health Connection (AHC) offers the healthcare industry’s only all-inclusive, full-service, virtual central scheduling and patient communications services. Our Patient Communication Management® service encompasses a suite of customized, scalable services that seamlessly and cost-effectively streamline all aspects of the patient scheduling and engagement process.

Our comprehensive solutions are designed to dramatically improve scheduling and registration workflow, enhance patient and physician satisfaction, maximize client resource utilization and reduce costs.