Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Part Five: How Do I Use an Agency?

(Back to Part 4.)

A few words on working with agencies: each agency will be a bit different in how it does business. How organized you are internally, however, will have a large affect on how smoothly the collaboration goes.

First of all, make sure your internal systems are in place. It should be clear to employees when the need for an interpreter should be noted, who is responsible for ordering the interpreter and how that is to be done. In addition, staff should know who has the responsibility to cancel the interpreter if the patient cancels, whose responsibility it is to sign the interpreter in and out if you require signed encounter forms, and whose responsibility it is to dismiss the interpreter if the patient does not show up. While doing all this by phone may be easier, doing all transactions by fax will leave a paper trail that may be important in case of disputes.

When you order the interpreter, you should be able to provide the patient’s name and some sort of identification number, the provider’s name and the date, time and location of the appointment. Also, be sure you know about how long you’ll need the interpreter; it is very expensive to overbook an interpreter’s time since you are paying by the hour, however it is also nonproductive to underbook an interpreter who then may need to leave for another appointment before the first one is completed. Additional information that is helpful for the interpreter to know is the patient’s gender and age, as this gives the interpreter important clues as to how the patient should be addressed. Finally, any information you can give the agency as to the nature of the appointment will allow the interpreter to come better prepared.

The most important part in working with an agency is clear communication. If you have a concern or complaint, a quality agency will want to know about it. The agency becomes part of your language access team, so the better the teamwork, the more effective your interpreter service.

Source: Roat, Cynthia E. “How to Choose and Use a Language Agency: A Guide for Health and Social Service Providers Who Wish to Contract With Language Agencies.” Los Angeles: The California Endowment, February 2003.

(Go to Part 6.)

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