Planning and Developing your Language Assistance Program

By September 30, 2015General


by Eber Lopez, Strategic Projects Manager, MasterWord Services

I’ve spent much of my career developing an expertise in metrics and evaluation methods in the Healthcare Setting and throughout my time in healthcare, I’ve had the privilege to oversee language assistance divisions and present the function and value that these departments provide to a hospital system.

One of the biggest challenges and most rewarding experiences I’ve had the privilege to experience has been building and retooling programs for many of the hospital systems were I’ve been employed. While my approach to assessing and retooling a Language Assistance program is no different than how most would approach rebuilding a revenue generating department, I think it is important that we begin with a discussion with the items I would consider essential and how they fit within my thought process.

With diminishing budgets and increasing pressures to do more with less funding, it is critical to develop a realistic forecast to present to leadership, allowing them to fully understand the financial impact that a robust language assistance program will have on the organizations bottom line. The forecast model should not only include the expected expenses for servicing clients but also expenses and investments needed for lost productivity during meetings/trainings, the creation/maintenance of infrastructure, language assessments for staff, alternatives and time lines for deployment and supplemental pay provided to bilingual staff. In addition activities within “normal operations”, consideration should be given to emergency preparedness and adverse events allowing for uninterrupted service. This key data will allow the overall organization to decide which Language Assistance initiatives are realistic and achievable given the internal and external constraints they may face.

Along with developing this model, consideration should be given to how the organization will develop and maintain its front-line employee knowledge base on language assistance. The best programs I’ve ever seen had extensive training programs that provided pathways for developing higher registers for their interpreters and translators and educated staff on the importance of the service and how to best utilize the service.

Many of the data points mentioned above can be gathered during a self-assessment of the organizations policies and in-place procedures. In addition to the standard self-assessment criteria that are readily available I encourage you to explore how thoroughly Title VI and ADA compliance activities are being applied not only within the walls of your organization but within subcontractor’s contracts, including whether a mechanism for monitoring sub-recipient procedures and compliance is in place. All of these components should be incorporated into the organizations Language Assistance Plan as well as considered during the development of an implementation Plan. It is critical that leadership be aware of all the Language Assistance standards and regulations that have the ability to impact their organization and initiatives can gain momentum with support from departments such as HR, Legal and Compliance.

To learn more about how you can plan and develop your Language Assistance Program, visit us at the 4th Annual International Language Services Conference in Hilton Houston Post Oak on Friday, October 9th. Register here: