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How Experienced Interpreters Play It Cool for Medicare Call Monitoring

A lot hinges on an interpreter’s ability to quickly and accurately interpret questions during the CMS call center monitoring period.

CMS star ratings are a big deal, since the ratings are directly tied to certain types of funding.

That’s why many language access companies focus their efforts on making sure interpreters are prepared to handle all aspects of a CMS call.

But language companies can only do so much — interpreters must also take measures to ready themselves for call monitoring.

We’ve outlined a few ways experienced interpreters prepare to ensure they’re assisting beneficiaries who speak a language other than English to the best of their abilities.

They follow interpreter protocol

This one might seem obvious, but it’s a fact that differentiates a decent interpreter from a great one: They follow protocol.

Interpreting is a learned, practiced skill, much like cooking a gourmet meal or writing the perfect cover letter. And much can go wrong when untrained individuals try to interpret if they’re not familiar with the appropriate national standards and conventions of interpreting.

The Accuracy and Accessibility Study requires interpreters to be concise, quick, and, above all else, accurate.

In order to stay in compliance for CMS, interpreters not only have to possess specialized, exceptional language skills, but they also must interpret three plan- or Medicare-specific questions completely and accurately.

To do this effectively, interpreters must do the following:

  • Take notes
  • Be familiar with Medicare terminology
  • Free themselves from distractions
  • Focus
  • Know when to transparently ask for repetition

These are basic principles of the interpreting practice, but they are necessary components that most experienced interpreters will tell you are essential to performing well on CMS test calls.

Related: 3 CMS Call Center Monitoring Resources You Need to Know

They’re prepared

Smiling video interpreter carrying a stack of books up a staircase in the library.
Source: cottonbro from Pexels

Yes, test anxiety is real, and it can hit interpreters just as hard as it hits a student laboring over a math exam.

Interpreters can ease test anxiety with a little preparation.

Each of the three survey questions has a seven-minute time limit. Meaning, the health plan’s customer service representative (working with an interpreter) has seven minutes to answer each question. So in addition to interpreting each statement clearly and accurately, if an interpreter is not focused, they can rush an interpretation and risk making a call-ending mistake.

But experienced interpreters know how to remain calm and use their tools to the fullest extent.

Related: A Prepared Interpreting Services Company Can Help Health Plans Ace CMS’s Accuracy & Accessibility Study

They know Medicare terminology

Most language service providers that service healthcare clients will only work with professional interpreters who have demonstrated knowledge in medical settings.

The interpreters are highly familiar with specialized medical terminology through education, training, certification, and/or years of practice. This means that, even if an interpreter has not taken a CMS call before, there is a good chance they’ve heard the terminology before, and can interpret it without issue.

They’re familiar with the content

There are certain aspects of a test call that an interpreter must recite precisely.

Most notably is the health plan’s full name. Missing a detail in the plan’s name that might seem inconsequential can torpedo the entire call.

For example, if an interpreter misses even one word, such as saying “Acme Health Plan” instead of “Acme Health Plan Rx,” the call will immediately fail.

Experienced interpreters familiarize themselves with these nuances, so they can provide the most accurate interpretations possible.

They use their resources wisely

CLI has worked with our customers and interpreters to develop CMS resources. We usually distribute them to our interpreter base before CMS call monitoring begins.

These resources contain familiar questions, frequently used Medicare terminology, and language-specific translations.

CMS secret shoppers pull from a pool of 18–20 questions each year. Interpreters and our customers will start recognizing the questions and will pass them along for inclusion in our resource packet.

Interpreters know how important these resources are and will keep them handy to reference quickly upon need.

Practice makes perfect

The 10,000-hour rule, made popular by journalist and author Malcom Gladwell, is a theory that, in order to achieve expert-level skill in something, the devotee needs to spend at least 10,000 hours practicing that skill. While this theory has been called into question, as time alone does not equate expertise, merit exists in practicing a skill you want to master.

CMS “secret shoppers” test health plans on their ability to give their prospective beneficiaries accurate information.

Spotting a CMS test call and accurately interpreting the questions can be tricky. And seasoned interpreters know that, the more calls you take, the more experience you accumulate, the better chance you have at nailing the Medicare verbiage.

At CLI, our interpreters have an average of 7.68 years of interpreting experience prior to joining our team and our average interpreter tenure is 6.3 years, which means our interpreters have the experience and know-how to execute any type of call with confidence.

Want more on CMS call monitoring and interpreting? Check out our Language Access and CMS Call Monitoring guide now!