Developing a Telephone Contact Center for Spanish-Speaking Health Plan Members

Molina Healthcare of California Site Profile

Field of Work: Helping health care organizations meet the challenge of providing language services and signage to Latinos.

Problem Synopsis: According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2000 census, more than 28 million Latinos in the United States over the age of 5 spoke Spanish at home. Among those, almost 9 million said they spoke English "not well" or "not at all," according to the census. Those numbers have climbed through the decade, with Latinos becoming the largest and fastest-growing minority group in the United States.

Through Hablamos Juntos, Molina Healthcare of California saw an opportunity to pilot "TeleSalud," an in-house telephone contact center where Spanish-speaking members could access health care advice 24 hours a day.

Synopsis of the Work: Molina Healthcare tested the service in the California counties of Riverside and San Bernardino, home to a large and growing Latino population.

Key Results

  • From December 2004 through February 2005, project staff compared the type of care members chose after calling in to the nurse advice line to what members said they would have chosen without advice. Staff reported that members guided by the advice line often avoided going to costly emergency rooms or urgent care centers. Based on that three-month analysis, project staff estimated that patient choices saved the health plan approximately $2,500 per month.

  • By the end of the project, Molina's in-house unit handled all calls, with one telephone number for Spanish speakers and another for English speakers. By January 2005, Molina was offering TeleSalud to members throughout California. By the end of 2005, members in Indiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas and Utah also had access to TeleSalud services.

  • Martha Bernadett, MD, the project director, reported that approximately 15 percent of the 50,000 calls to the TeleSalud line in California were from Spanish-speaking patients. She also noted that TeleSalud nurses were a major source of referrals to care for patients with chronic or complex health conditions, which are often hard to manage.

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