Guidelines for Evaluating High Performing VRI Interpreters for Healthcare


This is the second blog in a series exploring high-performing video remote interpreting programs and what to consider when selecting a language services partner.

One of the most important considerations when selecting a VRI provider is to understand the quality of the interpreters who will be supporting the clinician/patient encounter. Interpreters are the bedrock of a VRI program; all good language access programs start with a foundation of excellent interpreters.

To ensure your VRI interpreters are high performing, it’s important to consider several aspects including their:  

  • Testing/screening
  • Training
  • Compliance with federal and state regulations regarding qualified Interpreters
  • Certifications
  • Professional development and continuing education opportunities.

The following post provides recommended questions to ask any VRI provider to evaluate the performance of the interpreters who will be facilitating VRI for clinicians and patients. Learn more about how our credentialed and medically qualified interpreters are central to delivering effective communication in the healthcare setting.

Do interpreters focus exclusively on medical interpreting for Healthcare?

Many providers offer interpreters that service a variety of industries including legal, financial services, law enforcement in addition to medical interpreting. It is important to confirm that the interpreters who will be serving your organization are exclusively healthcare-focused and possess the requisite medical interpreting qualifications, experience and training to facilitate the most effective communication between clinicians and their patients.

Do interpreters meet or exceed the Section 1557 ACA requirements?

We recommend determining if the interpreters meet, and preferably exceed, the requirements specified in Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act for “medically qualified interpreters.” If healthcare organizations receive Medicare, Medicaid or reimbursement from federal health programs, they are legally obligated to provide language access services to LEP, Deaf and hard of hearing (HOH) patients. Under the regulations, a “qualified” interpreter is defined as an individual who:

  • Adheres to interpreter ethics and client confidentiality requirements
  • Has demonstrated language proficiency
  • Can interpret effectively, accurately and impartially including specialized medical terminology.

“Qualified” interpreters must have first undergone a rigorous qualification process. Being bilingual, even as a clinician, or having above-average familiarity with speaking or understanding a language other than English does not suffice as quality and effective language access.

Are the interpreters medically qualified, trained and certified and/or seeking certification in medical interpreting within their specific languages?

As a healthcare organization, it is important you are confident the interpreting services provider evaluates every interpreter who may provide services for your organization. Knowing with certainty that an interpreting services provider properly recruits, tests for linguistic understanding, trains and continuously develops interpreters is an important consideration. InDemand believes that interpreters should be nationally certified for spoken languages by either the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) at they are on a path to pursuing certification. Moreover, the Company takes the position that all American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are credentialed by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and that they have substantial experience as medical interpreters.

It is not industry standard that spoken language interpreters in a video environment must hold a certification from CCHI or NBCMI. However, InDemand believes that certification demonstrates training, testing, and a commitment to professional ethics and standards. An interpreter can be qualified according to the ACA without a certification but InDemand takes the extra step to work with interpreters to obtain the fullest certification available in their language.

Have the interpreters passed a medically focused, performance-based screening test?

Achieving certification is important, but it’s worth nothing if there are limitations around certifications. Obtaining language certification may only mean a written test on the standards of practice and ethics whereas linguistic testing assesses an interpreter’s linguistic abilities, accuracy, and knowledge of medical terminology. There are only seven languages that require an oral and written exam.

Written and Oral exam eligible languages:

  • Arabic
  • Cantonese
  • Mandarin
  • Korean
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Vietnamese

Because of this, it is critical that all interpreters take and pass a medically focused, interpreting assessment in both the target language as well as English at a suitable level that indicates quality and effective interpreting. Some companies develop these tests on their own and others use accredited, scientifically validated screening tools developed by third parties. ALTA and Language Stat are two examples of companies that provide these language screening services. Both companies have calibrated their tests to the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR), a government established language and interpreting proficiency scale.  Additionally, the assessments are calibrated to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency scale. If a VRI provider develops its own screening tests, such tests should still be reviewed and validated and calibrated to the same standards as independent vendors.

Does the company monitor the performance of interpreters?

Measuring the quality of interpreter performance on the job is key to a quality VRI program. We recommend a robust silent monitoring program to measure performance against a standardized set of criteria to effectively evaluate interpreters. Those who complete silent monitoring should be qualified, trained, calibrated, and evaluated for their ability to objectively evaluate interpreter performance. The results of silent monitoring should be used to provide feedback for training, interpreter coaching, and provide professional development goals. Additionally, there should be a well-documented action plan for performance improvement if interpreters are struggling to meet performance expectations.

Are interpreters offered professional development opportunities?

Professional interpreters will seek out opportunities to improve their skills and maintain certifications. A quality VRI service provider should offer interpreters with opportunities to improve their knowledge and skillset(s) on a regular basis that responds to clinician needs and identified areas of growth from silent monitoring.  

Are the interpreters licensed?

In some states, licenses are required to be held by all interpreters performing services, particularly ASL interpreters. If your state requires licensure, verify the VRI provider has current licenses for all the interpreters working with your clinicians and patients.

We recognize that the skill and dedication of our InDemand Interpreting team is critical to supporting an exceptional experience for your patients and ensuring their safety. We seek out candidates with proven medical interpreting experience, certification and training. InDemand interpreters are focused solely on medical interpretation and are among the most qualified in the industry. We have unparalleled standards when it comes to our interpreters. All of our interpreters are certified or actively pursuing by either the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters (CCHI) or the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) or work to become certified within one year of joining our team. Additionally, 100 percent of our American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters are credentialed by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and, on average, have more than 15 years of experience.

In our next blog of this series, we will take a closer look at key considerations of the suitability of equipment to support a quality VRI program. 

e-book: Top 5 Considerations when Selecting a VRI Provider

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