GAGE Award Remarkable Project recipient, "Reducing the Use of Ad Hoc Interpreters at Cambridge Health Alliance"


CHA's program "Reducing the Use of Ad Hoc Interpreters at Cambridge Health Alliance" was a Gage Award finalist and will be featured as a Remarkable Project at Vital2019, the annual conference of America's Essential Hospitals.

Effective communication assistance is vital to ensuring quality and safe care for patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP). Although communication via a professional medical interpreter or qualified bilingual medical provider is preferred, health care providers often resort to untrained interpreters, which poses risks to communication accuracy, patient safety, care quality, and privacy.

At CHA, 43% of primary care patients have LEP. While we have long maintained a robust language access program, CHA in 2012 identified 16 ambulatory clinics that used family and friends to interpret for more than 10% of LEP patient encounters, based on data from the Language Services Documentation Tool in the electronic health record.

CHA revised its interpreter services policy to explicitly prohibit the use of ad hoc interpreters, except in emergency situations. Additionally, CHA added 86 videoconference interpreting units across 14 sites from 2012 to 2018. Quality improvement team leaders surveyed patients on the timeliness, sound and video quality, and effectiveness of video conferencing services and the health system maintained a 90% service level of all calls answered in 60 seconds or less from fiscal years 2013 to 2018. From 2012 to 2018, the number of CHA clinics using untrained interpreters for more than 10% of LEP patient encounters decreased from 16 to 11.

The Gage Awards program recognizes America's Essential Hospitals members for successful improvement and change projects; spreads best practices and innovative programs to other organizations; and supports the association's research, policy, and advocacy work.