Interpretation is going virtual
In the United States pre-pandemic, as few as 8% of patients had taken advantage of telehealth. As early as June of 2020, that number had climbed to 50% in a survey asking patients if they’d used telehealth in the past three months.
Doctors in the US are facing the explosion of telehealth with cautious optimism while also working to include limited English proficiency (LEP) patients in this new quality of care. Among the strategies being deployed is integrating interpreters into virtual platforms.
“With an increased reliance on virtual care for health care during the pandemic, it’s important to make sure we are not increasing disparities for patients who have language barriers,” said Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH, the lead author of a study examining strategies to address disparities in virtual care platforms.
The US isn’t alone in this rapid switch to telehealth. Researchers found a 169% year-over-year increase in global telehealth investment in Q2 of 2021.
Neither is the telehealth industry alone in the switch to virtual. Gartner forecasted in 2021 that by the end of the year 51% of knowledge workers would be remote. Remote workers mean remote meetings both internally and externally, which means routine business translation will be moving into the virtual space. Integrations like Boostlingo’s Webex Embedded App, Boostlingo Interpretation, will be crucial for catering to a global workforce and client base with growing interpretation demands.
For language service providers, this shift to more virtual communication means onsite interpretation offerings are no longer enough to remain competitive in the global interpretation marketplace. According to Nimdzi’s 2021 Interpreting Index, Virtual Remote Interpreting (VRI) and Over the Phone Interpreting (OPI) made up only 17% of the market before the pandemic. During the pandemic, these numbers shot up by nearly 500% to 47% share of the interpreting market. Post-pandemic, Nimdzi is predicting that the levels will fall to virtual holding a 35% share of the market as onsite interpreting returns as an option.
In a market where the largest global providers have robust virtual options, growing language service providers need options for affordable virtual interpretation in addition to their onsite interpretation staff. iTek Interpreting Solutions, a language service provider in the Quad Cities District of the United States is an example of virtual interpreting keeping a smaller shop competitive even as the market changed rapidly in the pandemic.
Education language support reimagined: A virtual interpretation use case
In 2017, Hector opened iTek Interpreting Solutions as an underdog. He had left his previous language service company to start a business from scratch, and his interpretation market was saturated with global providers. The task was not too daunting for him and his wife, Denise, the co-owner and co-founder of iTek.
As he began his business, virtual interpretation was becoming affordable enough for small language service providers to use the product and expand their interpretation offerings. iTek partnered with Boostlingo to add virtual services to his portfolio and began going after local schools and hospitals. With Boostlingo, he had the scheduling and interpreter management solutions he needed for his onsite staff, and additionally he had access to a global bank of interpreters instantly.
The combination of onsite and virtual solutions allowed him to offer the lowest prices for even the rarer languages in his area. Due to a booming manufacturing industry attracting an immigrant workforce to the Quad Cities, 35 languages are spoken in the area. Some are more common and easier to staff like Spanish and Vietnamese. Others, like Ixil (a Mayan-based language spoken in Guatemala), would have been unaffordable for a small team to staff in an onsite capacity. With Boostlingo, Hector and iTek were able to use the virtual platform to tap into a global workforce and fill those interpretation needs.
In 2019, iTek’s reputation in the area school systems was so positive that Davenport Community School District (DCSD), made up of 15,000 students, reached out to Hector to see if virtual interpretation could fix the gap the district was experiencing in language support services. Due to budget constraints and a limited number of interpreters, things like parent-teacher conferences were being scheduled back-to-back-to-back to accommodate the two-hour window a Vietnamese interpreter could be onsite. In other instances, family members and other students were being relied on to provide educational interpretation for students and parents.
In the United States, 1 in 10 students is currently learning English on top of their standard curriculum. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the basis for a nationwide requirement of language support as a means of equal access to education.
To get Davenport back into compliance with US Civil Rights laws and to support limited-English proficiency students in their education, virtual interpretation became a budget-friendly solution for DCSD. Now, a virtual interpreter could be accessed on any device and for any of their students’ languages. The school could preschedule calls for things like routine conferences, and also have on-demand interpretation options in case of an emergency. Without the affordability and convenience of Boostlingo’s virtual platform, students and families in DSCD would still be falling behind because of language barriers. iTek was able to fill a need in the community with virtual interpretation.
For Hector the ability to help these students is personal. As the child of immigrants from Mexico, Hector moved to the Quad Cities area at six, and quickly became the link between his parents and the English-speaking world they had relocated to. “In my way, I was forced at a very young age to become an adult,” Hector recalls of his childhood in Illinois. The daily challenges of being a third grader helping his parents pay bills, get medical care and generally navigate their life in the United States informs the way he sees and conducts interpretation as a business.
Aside from DCSD, iTek Interpreting Solutions serves the majority of the school districts in the area as well as serving large legal and healthcare clients in the region. Over the course of five years, the combination of Boostlingo’s digital platform and Hector’s compassionate drive for more interpretation led to iTek becoming the #1 language service provider in the Quad Cities area. Asked about the key to his success, Hector explained:
“With the right partners and the right technology, the sky really is the limit.
How Boostlingo can help you reimagine interpretation
Telehealth, education, and business meetings are just a few of the spaces in which virtual interpretation allows your company to offer unique solutions made for today’s changing environment. In addition to the power of virtual solutions, Boostlingo’s flexible platform offers interpreter scheduling, interpretation management, and on-demand interpretation. Video Remote Interpretation (VRI) and Over the Phone Interpretation (OPI) can either be hosted on the platform with your interpreters, or you can schedule appointments with the Boostlingo Professional Interpreter Network comprised of 10,000 interpreters in over 300 languages.
Why do all of these options matter? As a language service provider, you’re dedicated to improving language access and making it easy on your clients to use interpretation every day. Virtual solutions are an important tool in the toolkit as more of our communication takes place online or in increasingly diverse settings where language barriers arise.
Boostlingo partners with your company to help you find creative solutions for better communication. Reimagining interpretation is a choice to bring interpretation into spaces where the languages were too rare, the logistics were too hard, or the prices were too unaffordable before. Be a part of improving communication every day. Partner with Boostlingo today.