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I think I just had a cool idea to help foreign language patients


I was thinking about how if I don't get accepted into NS for the Fall '11 class that I will work on learning Spanish that semester and then apply again later on. For some reason the image of non-English speaking patients sitting in an ER popped into my head and I started to think about how stressful that must be for them. I mean not only are they probably worried about why they are there, but they have to be worried that they won't even be able to explain what is wrong! So here's my idea. What if you had a computer kiosk where the person can use a touch-screen to select their home language and then once in that language the computer let's you choose a series of images to describe in general terms what is wrong with you. So it might start by asking some general questions like age, weight, and sex. Then it would ask you to touch the area of the body where you are experiencing pain or having a problem. There could be a word selection function where you select key words such as coughing, fever, headache, etc in their own language. There could also be a series of pictures that they touch on to describe what happened them such as a photo of a car crashing or a photo of someone making the motions like having chest pains. At the end of the process the machine would print out the report converted into English so that the person doing the intake has a "leg up" on what is going on with the patient without having to wait for a translator. Anyway, this just popped in my head!

Nice theory! You seem to have the general functionality down. Try to think of the nitty gritty details that might happen. (I'm not trying to shoot down your idea, but many really good ideas fail because the designers simply haven't thought of the real people using it).

For example: germs. You'll have to have some sort of sealed type unit, because a keyboard will get nasty, and most plastic covers will get torn.

Also, some of the people using it might abuse it (ie, punch it).

How big is it going to be? Will it be big, like an ATM? Many hospital waiting rooms are barely big enough for all the people, let alone a big computer thing. Will it be small? start thinking theft, even if you make it the ugliest thing in the world. Or, even worse- breakage again.

More practical (as Mission described above) interfacing it with existing EHR/EMR's. Obviously, this thing won't work if it doesn't put the info in a place where it could be read.

Translation. Seems very simple, but you'll have to be sure that the translations are correct. Spanish may seem pretty simple, but Mexican spanish vs Cuban vs Spain can have differences in dialect that may not translate very well.

Depending on placement, the alternative language may not be spanish. Areas with predominantly Asian influence would require even more translation- and Asian writing is even harder to program for.

If you are thinking about little pictures- coughing? vomitting? breathing hard?- all things that are hard to represent in a little icon, and for people with limited education, might be impossible to understand.

So, not to shoot down your idea! We need a greater involvment of computers and technology in health care- computers are supposedly there to make our lives easier, but all to often they get in the way due to poor planning and execution.


Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

I'm bilingual and I think it sounds like a great idea. It needs some tweaking but overall I think you're on to something! Now if only you knew an IT guy/gal!

That sounds like an amazing idea!