Since 2000, Language World, has provided on-site health and human service interpreters to Northern California hospitals, social service systems, school districts, and recovery programs.
With the sudden onset of COVID-19, a new distressing economic reality for our many institutional customers quickly emerged. For the first time in modern memory, significant financial losses were draining resources from every medical service provider throughout the country. Basically overnight, one massive revenue-making patient pool vanished, and a new, more critically ill patient took their place.
If anyone thinks that this reality is insignificant, take a moment to realize that healthcare represents a whopping 17% of the total economic output of the U.S. economy and this sector employs 11% of our total workforce. [Source]
The cost of providing specialized acute care turned medical systems upside down and upended the predictable revenue stream from established care models. Accordingly, it became very clear that the virus would significantly cut our face-to-face spoken language interpreting services.
Our business is straightforward. Today, as before the pandemic, Language World customers request a specific spoken language pair, and, in short order, we dispatch an employee with the demonstrable education and training, medical clearances, social skills and intellect to perform this highly complicated work. It is not magic, although it sure seems that way when a Language World interpreter enters a room; communication blossoms, chronic conditions become manageable and fears diminish.
Our clients know that the work of a Language World interpreter contributes significantly to healthier outcomes and has been proven to prevent expensive medical intervention down the road.
At the end of March, when the pandemic’s consequences began to sink in, our agency was faced with a variety of daunting challenges to our existing business model. As the highest quality modality of interpreting, how would our patients and client communicate without a human being in the exam room?
Fortunately, the answer is something we have been working on since 2015. Years ago, before anyone thought about pandemics and remote video communication services to patients and K-12 students, Language World partnered with the country’s leading remote video interpreting platform called the Health Care Interpreting Network. Recognizing the need to expand services in the most efficient way possible, we embarked on this journey to understand the rules, technologies and talent required to fulfill video interpreting encounters at the highest level possible.
In preparation for this task we adopted new recruiting objectives and training standards specific to remote modalities. Quality interpreting is not an accident, and our nationally recognized medical customers, representing some of the most complicated, diverse healthcare service environments in the country, demanded Language World meet the challenge of seamlessly fulfilling on-demand, Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) talent.
In answering that call, we built a state-of-the-art call center furnished with leading-edge secure and reliable technologies available today. We implemented a multi-part screening and testing regime that ensured that a Language World VRI candidate would be equipped for success in this emotionally and intellectually demanding environment.
Looking back, no one could have predicted the assault this pandemic would have on so many institutions and systems of care we all took for granted yesterday. But we don’t have the luxury to pine over what is gone. As usual our Limited English communities are suffering their inordinate and wholly unjust share of death and chronic illness from this awful disease. This is because their socio-economic status, their living conditions, their access to healthcare, and the frontline work they sacrifice to maintain our health, comfort and safety exposes them to higher risks with little help.
Language access to quality healthcare information is a human right and not a privilege reserved only for English speakers. We intend to stay focused on that mission no matter what.