Understanding different languages

In 2018, we leveraged one of our most valuable assets – Spanish-speaking member services representatives – to meet the needs of our growing community of Latinx members.

Today, our Multicultural Service Program is turning calls into meaningful conversations for close to 80,000 Latinx members. Spanish-speaking call center reps are trained on health insurance interpretation and effective communication techniques so they can respond to calls in the language preferred by members.

“I can better explain concepts like co-pays, PCPs and referrals,” said Julia Granados, a member experience specialist who’s fluent in Spanish and familiar with many related dialects.

How it works

Tufts Health Plan joined forces with Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) to offer the Multicultural Service Program training in collaboration with the school’s Medical Interpreting Certificate Program. Open to current member services employees, the multi-month program consists of three sessions. The first two sessions are in English and are required of anyone working in our members services department:

  1. New hire training on products and applications. Led by Tufts Health Plan trainers who are also adjunct faculty at BHCC, classes in this session run for at least five weeks and cover Tufts Health Plan’s entire product line.
  2. Practicum of working in a call center. These classes run for at least three months and give reps real-life experience in a call center.
  3. Bilingual class taught by a certified trainer(s). A 15-hour, three-week session that focuses on language and cultural competency. Participants review previously covered material in Spanish. To qualify, reps must be fluent in Spanish and have worked in the member services department for at least one year.

How it helps

For members, the benefits are immediate. Reps who understand a member’s coverage plans, speak their language and connect with their culture, ensure they get the most from their membership. We expect that will lead to better health outcomes.

“We created this program to address the demands of fast-growing diverse customer segments through direct access to bilingual representatives, therefore offering a higher quality experience than traditional third-party translation services,” explained Juan Lopera, corporate business diversity officer and vice president of marketing for Tufts Health Public Plans.

For member services representatives, this new program is an academic pathway to build their careers. Reps who complete the first two sessions are eligible to earn credit toward a BHCC Medical Interpreting Certificate or an associate or bachelor’s degree. And last fall, BHCC added a Health Insurance track to its curriculum. Students who choose that specialty can fulfill their work requirement as member services interns at Tufts Health Plan.

“The class also helped with networking,” said Granados. “I’ve built relationships with peers in other lines of business. Before we may never have interacted. Now we have a connection.”

How it benefits our business

The Multicultural Service Program is improving service, building bonds and promoting professional development – a win-win for members and reps alike. It’s also improving the way we do business. By having trained bilingual employees in our member services department, we’ve cut our dependency on external translation services, along with logistical and financial costs.

Already, more than 30 people have completed the program. And with three classes scheduled, 2020 looks just as promising.

Meanwhile, we’re also assessing other language needs, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Portuguese and Haitian Creole. If the call volume warrants it, we will continue to grow the program and close service gaps, bridging even more cultural divides.

Welcome campaign for Medicaid members

Business Diversity Program Manager Arthur Edwards shared another way Tufts Health Plan is advancing cultural competency.

Working with ConsejoSano1 in Rhode Island, Tufts Health Plan offers a program to help inform new members of covered benefits and answer questions in the member’s language of choice, using mobile text message technology. ConsejoSano offers 15 languages, including community-specific engagement for cultural sensitivities. “We already have seen increases in member satisfaction and retention by being connected with members on that cultural level,” said Edwards.