HL20: Blau and Cohn—Understanding the Patient's Need for Understanding

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 13, 2011

"Say a patient comes in complaining of chest pains," Blau says. "You simply pull up chest pain section and it will have the list of questions organized in the chronology you would normally want to ask as a clinician. You tap on your device and it will play those recordings that have been laid down by these professional interpreters out of the speakers of your device. It would be like they are hearing the interpreter in the room with them."

Blau stresses, however, that MediBabble is no substitute for a flesh-and-blood translator.  "The tricky part obviously is how do you understand their response?" Blau says. "We wrote this history so it is all closed-ended questions that require only ‘yes' or ‘no' responses or gestural responses, such as pointing to a body part or holding up a number of fingers to indicate pain on a scale of 1 to 10."

Cohn says they intentionally limited MediBabble's ability to obtain information from patients. "You can't give information to a patient using MediBabble," he says. "This is for an emergency situation where collecting data quickly will allow you to improve the patients' health or allow you to get critical health information. It boils down patient responses into a format where you don't need to actually speak their language to understand their replies. But in order to give that information back to a patient you need to work with a medical interpreter."

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