Health-care providers are often confronted with language and cultural challenges, especially when caring for immigrant patients - which can frustrate both doctor and patient, as well as delay diagnosis and treatment. Though many facilities employ interpreters, the wait times for a translator can be lengthy depending on demand and language. So to help the problem, two UC San Francisco medical students created a phone and iPad application, MediBabble, that translates medical history questions from English into other languages.
The first four languages were chosen to match San Francisco’s demographics; the last was added as an immediate response to the need for disaster medical care in Haiti after its January 2010 earthquake. Once downloaded, MediBabble does not require an Internet connection, so it’s usable anywhere – from commonly shielded hospital settings to resource-strapped urban clinics and disaster zones.
MediBabble relies on a symptom-based approach already commonly used by medical practitioners worldwide. It starts by gathering information about the current complaint – such as cough, fever, or chest pain – then segues into the patient’s history. Designed to draw out medical, social, occupational and family histories, as well as sensitivities to medicines and allergies, the application uses closed-ended questions to elicit yes/no answers or gestures from the patient, who can then point to certain body parts or dates on a calendar, for example, to convey the date a problem began.