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Dallas County

Parkland Set to Bring Video Interpretation In-House

By Shawn Shinneman |

Parkland Health and Hospital System will hire as many as 80 in-house, full-time employees to serve the bulk of its interpretation needs, an “insourcing” decision the system says will save more than $1 million.

The county hospital has been plugged into a video interpreter network for the last five years. Patients with a language barrier speak to providers via out-of-county interpreters on a screen. Many of them were based at their homes in Guatemala or Mexico, the system says.

The video part won’t change under Parkland’s new plan. Meredith Stegall, Parkland’s director of language services, says that when her team began to explore whether they could bring the service in-house, a “continuously seated” model—the Parkland-based interpreters will work via video from a centralized location at the hospital—emerged as the option that made the most sense. In addition to the $1 million in savings, Parkland says they’re creating 80 Dallas County jobs with a pipeline to higher-earning jobs in healthcare.

Parkland has already started to recruit the first 30 interpreters. Fifteen of them will be “level I,” meaning they’ll need training in medical terminology, grammar, and formal interpretation. The other 15 will be “level II,” meaning they’ll come in with healthcare experience. The goal is to have those 30 in place for a Nov. 1 go-live.

Operating the program via video, rather than in-person, allows efficiency.

“When you have in-person interpretation, you have lost walk time,” Stegall says. “You have lost waiting-for-provider time.”

Currently, Parkland can get an in-person interpreter to a provider within 15 minutes. Meanwhile, video offers a connection at an average of 38 seconds and at about “90 percent of that same experience,” Stegall says.

The hospital will hire an additional 50 interpreters within fiscal year 2019. The interpreters can get tuition reimbursed and receive benefits if they’re seeking a career path in healthcare.

“As an interpreter, you’re able to experience everything from the emergency room to neurology, and it really provides that gateway,” Stegall says.

In-house interpreters will eventually handle about 90 percent of the need for Spanish interpretation, which accounts for the majority of Parkland’s interpreter requests. The system will continue to outsource interpreters, albeit on a much smaller scale, to supplement the call center.