Northeast Health System's Interpreter Services Costs Drop 30% with Help from Guidehouse

Michael Williams and Jordan Shusterman


Federal laws such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 require hospitals to provide language interpreter services for patients in need of them. These services can be provided in a variety of forms, each of which offers advantages and disadvantages. 

A health system in the Northeast was heavily reliant on in-person interpreters, including use of employees and independent contractors. This was due to the system’s belief that it was a legal requirement to use face-to-face interpretation instead of other means of interpretation, and a lack of proper policies and procedures to guide clinicians on the type of interpreter to request.


The system partnered with Guidehouse to analyze the alternative forms of interpretation and develop a method to maximize efficiency of hospital interpreter staff. At the same time, video remote interpreting (VRI) was deemed more time-efficient than other outsourced options, without the hidden costs (travel expenses, two-hour minimums, etc.) of outsourced in-person interpreters and contractors.

An initiative was undertaken to put policies and procedures in place to deliver optimal solutions to meet the needs of the patients in a cost-effective manner.

An assessment conducted by Guidehouse was done to determine the existing usage in terms of type of interpretation. This assessment used reports that hospitals were required to submit to the government indicating the number of interpretation requests and types of interpretation.


Reducing in-person interpretations and replacing them with over-the-phone interpretations (OPI) or VRI is projected to reduce the health system’s interpreter services costs by 30%, driving $1.2 million in annual savings. This opportunity was calculated based on 80% adoption of OPI and VRI, a goal based on adoption by a similar local health system.

Technology benefits won’t truly be realized until proper policies and procedures are in place to guide staff toward increased OPI and VRI use, and less in-person interpreting. As implementation continues, it will be critical to ensure an adequate level of adoption of OPI and VRI technology among doctors and nurses.

Interpreter services is an area that supply chain departments might not consider as something they can impact, but it’s another purchased service with real savings opportunities.

Michael Williams

Director, Supply Chain, Guidehouse

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