Student Research Spotlight October 19, 2018
Frank Mayer III (DO '20)
Frank C. Mayer III (DO '20) came to PCOM through the Delaware Institute of Medical
Education and Research program and examines demand for Spanish and Mandarin language
interpreters in hospitals.
Frank C. Mayer III (DO ’20) is a husband, father of two and a third-year osteopathic medical student. Currently he is rotating at Christiana Hospital as part of a core clinical campus
agreement between the Christiana Care Health System and Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM). Prior to starting at PCOM, he received an MBA in healthcare management while conducting
research at the Christiana Care Value Institute. Mr. Mayer came to PCOM through the
Delaware Institute of Medical Education and Research program, through which PCOM reserves
slots each academic year for applicants from Delaware.
What are you studying?
We examined the supply and demand for full time in person Spanish and Mandarin language
interpreters in the hospital. The goal was to optimize the number of interpreters
so that patients who are better served by speaking to their healthcare providers in
a language other than English receive the best possible care. Christiana Hospital
wanted to determine how many full-time equivalent interpreters were needed and how
patients felt about in-person Christiana Care interpreters versus interpretation by
phone through 3rd party services. We found that patients preferred in-person interpretation.
Our analysis also showed that increasing the number of Spanish and Mandarin interpreters up to an optimal level will result
in savings to the hospital.
What prompted you to pursue research?
I was volunteering in the Emergency Department at Christiana Hospital and saw that
there was a lot of quality improvement research and a strong focus on improving outcomes
and reducing healthcare disparities. I was interested because I could see that the
hospital was implementing policy based on the research. I liked that work was quickly
having a real-world impact. After speaking to the advisor of my post-baccalaureate
program, he was able to connect me with the Value Institute, which initiates or supports
a lot of research done at Christiana Care.
What experience do you have conducting research?
While working at the Value institute I had the opportunity to participate in weekly
meetings of the Healthcare Delivery Science team and assist with other projects in
quality improvement, vascular surgery and emergency medicine. The staff, researchers
and statisticians at the Value Institute made it an incredible learning experience.
What were your responsibilities in this research project?
The two papers came from an initiative at the Value Institute we called “Communication/Language
Is Key (CLIK).” My involvement started with the first paper Quantifying Medical Interpreter Activity: A Time-Motion Study where we studied the full time Spanish language interpreters in the hospital. Another
student and I followed the interpreters through hospital and tracked what the interpreters
did, how long it took them do it and where they were when they did it. This allowed
us to create a detailed map with a minute by minute account of the interpreter’s day
including how long it took to walk to various areas of the hospital, how much time
they spent interpreting and what departments they served most frequently. It quantified
how busy the interpreters were and allowed us to quantify the value-added vs non-value
added activities imposed on the interpreters due to organizational constraints. It
also formed a foundation for parts of the analysis in the subsequent paper Meeting demand: A multi-method approach to optimizing hospital language interpreter
What is the broader impact of your research?
For most people outside of the healthcare field, understanding the terminology used
in medicine or the risks and benefits of procedures is difficult. Now imagine trying
to do that in a foreign language. This research helped the hospital better understand
how to provide the resources to make sure that patients are receiving the safest and
highest quality care possible, while reducing health disparities due to language barriers.
There is a perception that cutting staff or patient services is a way of reducing
costs, but in this case, we proved that the opposite is true. Meeting demand: A multi-method approach to optimizing hospital language interpreter
staffing made such a great impact that the hospital selected the team as the recipients of
the “Christiana Care Way—Health Equality Award.” This work was also recently presented
(podium and poster) at Academy Health 2018 Annual Meeting.
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