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CMS Final Rule Impacting Accessibility and Language Support

Veterans in digital accessibility can attest that mandates arrive like crashing waves. The most recent wave we see crashing ashore is the CMS Final Rule which compels Medicare Advantage and Part D Payors to provide communications that are:

  • In the foreign language of a given population;
  • Accessible according to Section 508 – or in the case of documents, in accessible, tagged PDF format and;
  • In alternate formats such as braille, large print and audio files

Let’s break down what this means:

Language Translation

Healthcare communications like enrollment kits, letters, ANOC’s, EOC’s, EOB’s and Summary Benefits documents must now be available in foreign languages. If in a given state the population that relies on that language exceeds 5%, the language communication requirement kicks in. Here’s the problem: creating complex communications in any additional foreign language can be complex and take months to develop within your communications composition system. And that’s for something like Spanish or French. Add in more challenging languages such as Mandarin, Vietnamese or even Russian, and the complexity goes way up, and you guessed it, the time to market for those additional foreign languages goes up too. What if you could use an AI-based solution that was smart enough to handle translation to over 120 languages, be smart enough to account for cultural nuance, incorporate industry specific glossaries of terms, and maintain the fidelity of the original document? Tall order, right? Then add to that the need to do all of this in minutes or hours for volumes exceeding millions per month, and you start to glimpse the size of the challenge. Hold that thought though, because we still have to discuss accessibility.

Accessible Communications, or Section 508 Compliant Documents

The same expectations exist with the new Final Rule; the baseline for document communications is still WCAG-compliant, accessible PDF. Whether you do it within your authoring function, or post-authoring or on-demand, the baseline is that payors be able to immediately present PDF’s that can be read by assistive technology.

Alternate Formats

Gone are the days when payors can get around to providing alternate formats in 2-4 weeks. The turnaround time requirement now is measured in hours that add up to less than one business day. This means that the braille, large print and audio files (on MP3 or DVD media) have to be out the door, in the mail in hours not days. And, if you think about it, that makes sense. Forcing someone who relies on these formats to wait weeks does indeed feel discriminatory.

So, back to the tall order. The reason Crawford Technologies exists, is to help with situations exactly like this. We help Payors, and other big companies, deliver information in the format and over the channel that our clients’ customers demand. By using AI-based technology, we can help implement applications that instantly translate repetitive document content into over 120 languages, account for all the cultural and industry-specific terms, maintain fidelity AND, at the same time generate that content in accessible formats, whether that be accessible PDF, braille, large print or audio. Please join us on January 16th for a free webinar that explores the CMS Final Rule, what we are hearing from our payor customers and how we can help you automate all of this. With so much changing, why not add accessible translations to your superpowers?

Watch our recent webinar, Elevate Healthcare Accessibility: Revealing Compliance with the CMS Final Rule.

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January 3, 2024

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