Yolanda Robles has been the family translator since she was eight years old, as is often the case with children in immigrant families. Originally from the Dominican Republic, as an adult Robles succeeded in the fields of technology and healthcare. But as she grew her career, she realized from her childhood experiences that there was a large gap in interpreter services offered by healthcare systems.
“As a child, I was my mother’s interpreter in the ambulance on the way to the ER,” says Robles. “When I worked in a hospital in Indiana as a training coordinator, I was always pulled to be an interpreter.”
“All the things that I’ve experienced in my life have led me to be able to be where I’m at today: helping others not have to manage the issue of language when their family members are searching for healthcare.”
Robles founded CulturaLink in 2006. The platform tracks and documents all interpreter services and vendors operating at a hospital. Often, regulatory agencies will come into the hospital to confirm that the federal mandate to provide interpreters is being followed, and ask details about interpreters for specific patients.
Currently, hospitals have to call all of their vendors — often upwards of 10 — to find out which interpreter was paired with that patient. With CulturaLink, this information is automatically tracked on the platform.
Robles shares that their first client, a rural hospital that served a predominantly Hispanic population, kept losing patients to another hospital across the county, but didn’t know why. After adding a new interpreter program and other diversity-promoting solutions recommended by CulturaLink, the hospital saw a 300 percent return on investment within six months.
“We started with the patient in mind. Being able to do the best thing for the patient has allowed us to develop a technology that’s going to provide the best service for the client,” says Robles.
The CEO shares more about why there’s a business case for diversity and inclusion, how she integrates what she preaches within her own minority and women-owned company, and how you can diversify your staff by being intentional.
How does implementing diversity-promoting solutions help improve patient engagement?
The patients feel wanted, like they belong. You’ve created a welcoming environment for them to come to your organization. [As humans,] we’re all tribal, regardless of when we get ill. When you create an environment where people feel welcomed, it will definitely create more value for the organization. These organizations need to create that environment and educate their staff in cultural competence and how to manage diverse patient populations in order for them to stay relevant. There’s a business case for diversity.
Secondly, once you bring diversity into your organization, it allows you to be more creative on how to target and manage those different populations because you have people like them that work for you. Equitable care ties into positive results.
How did you build that welcoming culture within your own company — what kind of practices did you put in place?
We have to practice what we preach, right? We tell healthcare systems that you need to build a culture of inclusion where everybody can come to work as they are, because you just don’t leave your culture at the door. We’ve prioritized building an environment at CulturaLink where everyone within our company feels respected and feels valued. They don’t feel like they need to hide anything.
For example, we do a lot of celebrations within the company around different cultures via a weekly email. There will be a cultural education piece that shares more on the culture of the people that work for us, like our LGBT community. We want to celebrate them.
As the tech community continues to encourage conversations surrounding inclusion in the hiring process, what’s your advice for those trying to prioritize that?
You need to be intentional during the hiring process. We’ve done a lot of work with healthcare technology systems in particular to be able to figure out: how do I get this talent? People are constantly saying, we can’t find it, but it’s there. It’s a matter of how you organize yourself to be able to attract that talent and how you organize your company to retain that talent.
A lot of companies have begun to focus on being intentional with their hiring managers and prioritizing diversity. Once they’re on board, go through the process of creating employee resource groups where these individuals have a voice within the organization. Within the tech world, diversity will be a natural thing that’s going to happen, but once you meet that road, how will you manage that diversity so that it doesn’t become a combative situation?
It comes from a place of inclusion where everyone feels welcome, and this is not only about race or gender, but age as well. For example, how do you keep a millennial engaged versus a baby boomer, and how do you help them collaborate together?