How to Establish a Medical Interpretation Program


Remote interpreting services are a must-have for medical providers today. This guide will help you learn how to provide it.

There’s no doubt that it’s important to hire qualified medical interpreters for your medical practice or hospital. As the number of Americans speaking a language other than English at home swiftly approaches 22% of the total population, organizations all over the country are scrambling to find solutions to language barriers. The desperate need for language access is heightened even more in the medical field, where serious liability and regulation come into play.

But how will you create a remote interpreting program for your organization?

If you think that process sounds impractical, difficult, or expensive, we’re about to let you in on a secret: it doesn’t have to be! There are different ways to approach setting up a medical interpretation program, ranging from difficult and expensive, to easy and affordable (we prefer the latter, obviously!). Whether your organization is a large hospital or a small clinic, there are viable solutions available. Let’s take a look at what you need to get started!

Doctor Medical Interpretation

The Benefits of Remote Interpreting

When many people think about medical interpretation, they assume that an interpreter is on site, acting as a communication conduit between doctor and patient. This scenario is, of course, ideal—it’s easier to interpret in person, but it’s also very impractical. For less common languages, an interpreter may have to travel long distances for a five-minute conversation, and they must be paid for their travel time, mileage, and typically a minimum of two hours on site, regardless of how long the session takes. Scheduling patients becomes more difficult, since the interpreter’s schedule must be factored in, and the whole process becomes very expensive and logistically troublesome.

These days, there are much easier ways to offer medical interpretation: Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI) or Video Remote Interpreting (VRI). Instead of paying for travel time, mileage, and minimum hours, medical facilities can just pay for the minutes they use, and contact a qualified medical interpreter right away, 24/7, without having to make an appointment. Since no appointment is needed, you can handle unexpected or emergency situations with ease. The use of remote interpreting was a game-changing solution during the peak of COVID-19 and continues to provide new levels of language access in American medical settings. Using OPI or VRI, it’s easy to set up a medical interpretation program.


Creating A Medical Interpretation Program

Now that remote interpreting has made language services far more accessible for medical organizations, many are opting to establish clear programs around this service. When you begin to outline your medical remote interpreting program, and start laying its foundation, there are a few important factors to consider.

doctor typinf laptop

Here are 5 critical steps to take:

1. Assess Your Needs

Since the Affordable Care Act was introduced, more patients are becoming aware of their rights to have a trained interpreter work with them during their appointments. Depending on your area’s level of diversity, you may find yourself in need of an interpreter on a daily basis, or more infrequently. Do you need an interpreter on staff for more common languages, such as Spanish? You can meet that need with remote interpreting—you’ll get help from a qualified interpreter almost immediately.

It’s extremely important to keep up to date with legislation that requires language access, especially in the medical field! Expanding your interpreting (and translation) options will ensure that you remain compliant with federal requirements.

2. Choose a Remote Interpretation Service

Once you know what your need is for remote interpretation services, it’s time to find the right interpreting service. It’s important to choose a provider with a simple process that will allow you to access 24/7 and reach only interpreters trained in medical interpretation and HIPAA certified. Quality services will allow you to place these filters, and usually offer a fair rate per minute.

3. Create Your Policies

Without a written policy, there’s a major risk for staff to fall back on old tactics—using family members for interpretation, or getting a bilingual staff member to interpret for them. This route has many risks, such as legal risks and a high likelihood of miscommunication, and should be avoided if at all possible. That’s why it’s important to figure out how you will handle interpretation services and document what the procedure should be and whom to reach out to in case of questions or issues. This can be updated if needed, but it’s important to start with a baseline policy staff can refer to.

4. Train Your Providers

It’s hard to make a change in the way you do things. Make it easier by providing training on the new system for all of your staff members. Most remote interpreting services are designed to be simple and user-friendly, so the training process shouldn’t be difficult—but it is necessary!

5. Ensure Access to Literature in Multiple Languages

To support your medical interpretation services, it’s important to ensure your written patient information is available in the most common languages you encounter. This is a cost-effective way to deliver information to all your patients, and can help make the experience of visiting the doctor more pleasant and helpful for patients. You’ll need to enlist the help of a language service provider to ensure high-quality translations for all your material.

Getting Help with Interpretation and Translation

Heart Hands doctor caring medical interpretation

Now that you know how simple creating an effective translation and interpretation program in your practice can be, it’s time to get started! Begin by getting help from a reputable language service provider that can offer you the turnkey solutions you need.

SpokenHere has built a strong reputation in the world of remote interpreting by focusing on relationships. Building meaningful relationships is at the center of our ethos, and this reflects in all of our services. We truly believe clients and patients alike benefit from the personal touch that we bring.


Want to learn more about how to set up a medical interpretation program?

Get a Free Consultation