Archive for Bill Kennedy

Is having patience truly a virtue when it comes to healthcare reform?

patienceI wrote a blog in early October and at the time of my writing, I was really wondering what the future would be like for the federal and state healthcare exchanges. I never fathomed that there would be so many problems and that our national leaders would be immersed in so much debate and scrutiny because of the technological challenges the websites were having. It reminds me of my time with another employer at the end of 1999, the verge of the new millennium in an electronic age. Remember when the sky was going to fall and everything that was plugged in was going to blow up or at least reset itself when the calendar switched to 01/01/01?

Thankfully Y2K came and went and nothing really happened. Millions of dollars were spent in preparation of potential failures but outside the monetary loss, nothing happened. That was 13 years ago. Now we need to get these healthcare exchange sites fully operational for traffic and commerce. The deadline for enrolling for healthcare is December 15th. The state sites are getting by a little better than the federal site but all of this is one big ugly mess. So why are the sites having so much difficulty considering they have had three years to test and QA? Glitches, problems, system failures…these are all dreadful words we hate to tell our customers when our technology isn’t working. Americans are depending on this.

At VIA, we translate websites all the time. We deal with tight deadlines everyday and 99% of the time we do not disappoint. We work with the technological teams and do thorough testing to make sure it works in all the languages that have been localized. Personally, I’m having hard time empathizing. I think the sites had enough time to be ready.

I read that the California site had 100,000 enrollments. Oregon enrolled 50,000 and New York 30,000. So it’s not all doom and gloom.

I really hope they can get their websites functioning easily in the next few weeks and before the New Year. I don’t have the patience to see America’s new healthcare plan for everyone suffer like this.

Healthcare Thoughts – In the Wake of ACA

Who’d think that Congress would still be bickering over the ACA? States that were selected to host healthcare exchanges officially opened their doors on October 1. Additionally, health plans raced to get their CMS materials finalized, translated and updated for print and placed on their websites by this time. The process has been quite stressful for my customers. Failure to meet the October 1 deadline could have led to heavy fines.

It was equally crazy for VIA and our linguistic teams. As a matter of fact, we were tasked to translate one Evidence of Coverage (EOC) and Annual Notice of Change (ANOC) into Spanish (75,000 words) in three days for one of my Northwest customers. We did it of course.

I’m certain there are plenty of other things happening in healthcare, but in my world the single most important topic right now is making sure my customers are prepared for 2014 and what is expected of them regarding their multilingual translation requirements.

Many of my health plan customers have been proactive and others prefer to take their chances with a “wait and see” approach just in case there are any last minute changes in legislation. Either way, I suggest having your vital materials in place and, at the very least, Spanish translated.

The healthcare exchanges will garner the need for more language access and this will certainly help the LEP community. Like everyone, I’m trying to be patient and waiting to see how impactful this first step in healthcare legislation will be on bringing positive change for the under insured and growing language needs.

Bill Kennedy

The Power of the Attestation

Have the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) or the Joint Commission ever knocked on your door asking about the quality of the translated materials you require your members and patients to read? Of course, this question is directed mainly to hospitals and health plans. But honestly, if this impacts you, do you feel confident that the materials you handed out to your members or patients are indeed translated accurately?

If the Joint Commission schedules a visit with your hospital, they will want to know what you have translated, where it is located and why you chose those specific languages? If they find anything lacking in quality, the Joint Commission may penalize the hospital. This slap on the wrist may hurt the hospital’s reputation. If the care facility gets a ding on its accreditation, it could ultimately steer potential staff to take their skills elsewhere.

It’s a little different for health plans. Plans may not get the federal or state funding they count on if they are not compliant. Audits are ugly.

Member services at health plans and the cultural and linguistic departments at hospitals generally oversee the day-to-day compliance of materials that are translated in multiple languages. My customers tell me they do not fret in these situations. In fact, our attestations pretty much spell it out for the auditors and most know that if they work with VIA, the translations are of great accuracy and quality. Our translations are conducted by professional linguistic teams that have more than five years healthcare translation experience. One translator, one proofreader and an attestation with any job we conduct.

Find out more about our healthcare translation solutions here.

To RFP or not to RFP? That is the question.

Every selling year goes by and I get at least a dozen bid opportunities from requesting healthcare orgs seeking quality vendors like VIA that offer translation services. The RFP process is a standardized process of vetting the vendor to wisely choose the right fit for their health organization’s needs.

Everyone has the same basic requirements; quality process in place, fast turnarounds and Translation Memory. The questions are generally the same each time and I’d imagine each bidder uses the same set of answers RFP to RFP. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

So how do you vet the good from the bad vendors, especially when the messaging from each of the vendors is the same?

I can’t stop thinking about my happy customers who did their due diligence without having to coordinate a full fledge RFP. After all, the time utilized is exhaustive not only for the requestor but equally so for the bidder.

  • Do you like your vendor?
  • Do they have dedicated support? Are they smart? Do they visit you?
  • Do they use translation tool like style guides or glossaries?
  • Do they nickel and dime you by charging for post job changes?

I really believe the human element is critical to the success of the relationship. Having a vendor with good tools makes it even better. Do you have a partner that understands your needs? Do they regularly work on the types of materials you translate? Do they understand your member base or know your population? Do they translate at a 5th grade level that is not too literal? Do they respond to your inquiries quickly? Do they fix mistakes within 24 hours?

So here’s what I suggest:

Run a few jobs through them. Review the results. Question the subjectivity of the work. See how they respond. Do they charge you for corrections?

I understand that organizations especially large ones are quite fond of their process of seeking vendors. Contracts folks are great at attaining the best rate but are they attuned to finding the right partner that you will enjoy working with on a weekly basis? The only way to really know is to try them out. My suggestion is to have your new vendor do a few jobs for you, so you can test the waters and feel out what knowingly is right for you and your LEP readers.

Traditional or Simplified? Cantonese or Mandarin? What’s the difference?

Differences among Asian-American Subgroups

Image courtesy of Pew Research Center

Not a month goes by without one of my new customers asking me to prepare an estimate for them in Chinese. Which always leads to my question, “Do you want Simplified or Traditional Chinese?” and instantaneously my question begs another question from the requester, “What’s the difference?”

Well there is a difference and it took me a couple of years and a little cheat sheet next to my phone to eventually save it to memory. Simplified Chinese, simply put and no pun intended, is the written language of Mainland China.  Traditional Chinese is the written language of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

You see that was easy! Well not really because in healthcare how do you know what your audience wants? The hospitals and health plans I work with predominantly request Traditional but I’m beginning to see more Simplified with certain systems and geographies in the West and the Hawaiian Islands.  So why do both? What’s the difference?

When it comes to Chinese it is important to understand that there is a distinction between the spoken and written forms of the language. There are dozens of dialects in China but the most widely spoken ones are Mandarin and Cantonese. We’ve discussed the two Chinese writing systems, Traditional and Simplified. Neither script is directly linked to a particular dialect. A Mandarin speaker for example may write in the Traditional or Simplified script.  Interestingly enough, it is not uncommon for people who cannot communicate verbally in Chinese to be able to understand each other through writing.

Chinese is one of the oldest written languages, dating back thousands of years. A number of reforms have been implemented to standardize it. The most important one took place in 1956 when the government introduced the Simplified Chinese script in an effort to promote literacy throughout the country. As its name implies in this new script the characters were simplified by reducing the number of strokes. Generally speaking it is much easier for someone who reads Traditional Chinese to read Simplified Chinese than other way around.

So now we know the history but what is best for your audience?  The easiest decision is selecting both but that can be costly, especially if you have a tight budget and numerous materials to translate. If in doubt, select Traditional.  If you know that your audience may be less educated, select Simplified.

Bill Kennedy

Healthcare Account Executive-West