How Experienced Interpreters Prep for CMS Test Calls

A lot hinges on an interpreter’s ability to accurately and quickly interpret questions about plan benefits for a prospective limited English proficient (LEP) beneficiary during CMS test call season. That’s why many language access companies, like CLI, focus their preparation efforts on making sure their 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. Here are just a few of the ways experienced interpreters prepare to ensure they’re assisting LEP beneficiaries to the best of their abilities.

 

They follow interpreter protocol

This one might seem obvious, but it’s important, and a fact that differentiates a decent interpreter from a great one: They follow protocol. Interpreting is a learned skill, much like cooking a gourmet meal or writing the perfect cover letter, and much can go wrong when bilingual speakers or untrained individuals try to interpret if they’re not familiar with the appropriate national standards and conventions of interpreting.

The Accuracy and Accessibility Study portion of testing requires interpreters to be concise, quick, and, above all else, accurate. In order to pass muster for CMS, interpreters not only have to possess specialized, exceptional language skills, but they also must interpreter three plan- or Medicare-specific questions completely and accurately. To do this effectively, interpreters must take notes, be familiar with the terminology, free themselves from distractions, focus, and 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

Yes, test anxiety is real, and it can hit interpreters just as hard as it hits a student sitting in a lecture hall laboring over a complex math problem. One way for interpreters handling CMS test calls to mitigate test anxiety is ensuring they’re fully prepared.

Each of the three survey questions has a seven-minute time limit. Meaning, the health plan’s customer service representative (working with an interpreter for LEP beneficiaries) has seven minutes to answer each question. So in addition to interpreting each statement clearly and accurately, if an interpreter is not careful or focused, they can rush an interpretation and risk making a call-ending mistake. But experienced interpreters know how to remain calm and use the arsenal of tools under their belt to the fullest extent:

  • They know the terminology. Most reputable language service providers that service healthcare clients will only work with professional interpreters who have demonstrated knowledge in medical settings. In other words, 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 been tested on a CMS call before, there is a good chance they’ve heard the terminology before, and can interpret it without issue.
  • They are 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 a suite of CMS resources to disseminate to our interpreter base before CMS testing season. These resources contain familiar questions, frequently used Medicare terminology, and language-specific translations. Because 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 who handle a lot of CMS calls know how important these resources are and will keep CLI’s test call information packet handy so they’re able to reference it quickly upon need.

Related: CMS Call Center Monitoring, Language Access, and CLI

 

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, there is merit in practicing a skill you want to master.

CMS “secret shoppers” test health plans on their ability to give their prospective LEP 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 CMS 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. Have any questions about CMS call monitoring? Download our Language Access and CMS Call Monitoring guide now. Or please feel free to contact us — we’d love to hear from you and talk about how we can help you improve your CMS quality rating score!

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