For community health centers serving a population of diverse languages, interpretation services represent a large budget item and a challenging workflow. Yet, culturally competent interpretation services are critical to meeting patient healthcare needs and advancing health equity. At Lowell Community Health Center, where 46 percent of patients are best served in a language other than English, we developed an innovative solution to save costs and improve clinical team and patient experiences.
In 2021 we identified that our third-party interpretation service was being overutilized, and our in-house service underutilized, which represented both a large financial cost to the organization as well as a missed opportunity to access culturally competent interpreters highly knowledgeable about the local community and health care system. In response, we implemented an innovative technological and workflow change and also partnered with a mission-aligned telehealth vendor in order to revolutionize our interpreter services cost model and transform the clinical team and patient experience of working with interpreters. As a result, we achieved measurable improvements in clinical team and patient experience and saved $120,000 per year in interpretation costs. This innovation illustrates how, through careful change management strategies, workflow optimization has positive implications for virtual as well as in-person care.