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Device Addresses Healthcare Language Barrier

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the babelfish-too-accurate dept.

Communications 159

Zothecula writes "With over 170 languages spoken in the US alone, medical personnel attending an emergency or working in a busy hospital are no doubt often faced with communication problems when trying to dispense treatment. The Phrazer offers a possible solution to this problem. It is billed as the world's first multilingual communication system, where patients provide medical background information, symptoms or complaints with the help of a virtual onscreen doctor speaking in their own native tongue. This information is then summarized into a medical record compatible with all major EMR systems." All that for only 12 to 18 thousand dollars.

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Only $12~18K? (1)

Announcer (816755) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328422)

With the low cost of modern computer technology, why does this device have to be THAT pricey? Just wondering.

Re:Only $12~18K? (4, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328458)

With the low cost of modern computer technology, why does this device have to be THAT pricey? Just wondering.

Low volumes. They might put one into every ambulance and ten into each emergency department but thats not the same as selling ipods or iphones by the million.

Funny story: my son was in hospital and I had him psyched up for a blood test. Not easy, I knew it was going to be a battle. Then the nurse wheeled in this big machine with gadgets hung on the outside. It looked like a torture machine from star wars. Of course he freaked out. It was their jazzed portable video player. Meant to distract the kids but it didn't work for us.

Re:Only $12~18K? (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328540)

Because they have to get the translations right. If you're fine with the translations being close you can go with cheep technology, but in cases like this being close isn't really that much better than not knowing anything, in fact it might be better not to have a bad translation. A relatively minor glitch in the translation might very well give you a much worse picture of what's going on than a bit of ad hoc sign language would.

Plus, you can also have a set of cards asking for the most common questions that's a lot less expensive and a lot more likely to get you a proper answer. Beyond that people in that sort of a circumstance aren't necessarily going to be speaking particularly clearly.

Re:Only $12~18K? (3, Funny)

amnesia_tc (1983602) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328896)

So cheap they can't even afford to use different vowels in the word "cheep"

Re:Only $12~18K? (2)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329482)

are you hard of hearing? I still read allowed, when I'm allowed, or if my allowance has come threw I get some1 at the libraee to reed it out 2 me.

Good job he ain't 733t.

Re:Only $12~18K? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329522)

Yes, they have to get it exactly right. And they have to use normative speech to get it exactly right for all speakers of all of those languages, taking into account various nuances and dialects that might occur. Just gathering all of that information requires a huge number of hours. Then there is writing the actual scripts, training and videoing hundreds of actors, and the studio time.

The software and hardware platform has to be well designed to have an excellent quality UI that will "just work" without wasting time in an emergency. QA and testing must be thorough, down to the smallest detail.

Furthermore, it is not good enough just to get it all exactly right. They have to be able to prove to hospitals that they got it all exactly right. It would not be ethical for hospitals to use the device unless they have proof, but of course, they themselves do not have the in-house capability of checking. So all aspects of the device must pass a strict and exhaustive regulatory certification process by qualified and universally accepted regulatory bodies.

Come to think of it, it's hard to image that it's really possible to market a suitable device for that price.

I'm sure glad I speak English.

Re:Only $12~18K? (0)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328548)

The real reason for the device isn't to determine what is wrong with the patient. But to find out as fast as possible if they have good health insurance and if not shove them out the door asap.

Re:Only $12~18K? (2)

twebb72 (903169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328582)

With the low cost of modern computer technology, why does this device have to be THAT pricey? Just wondering.

Are you kidding? You must not be familiar with the US health care system...

Re:Only $12~18K? (1)

CyprusBlue113 (1294000) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328646)

If you think you can compete for a lower price point, fucking go for it.

Re:Only $12~18K? (2)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328584)

Medical liability insurance.

Re:Only $12~18K? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329732)

The device itself isn't the costly part, all the work in to making translations, software, marketing, etc. count towards it remember.
Also, most importantly in this case, insurance, medical accuracy and medical standards compliance.

If anything, that price for such a useful piece of kit is pretty damn cheap. More so if it helps.
Hopefully devices like this become popular and it makes people less worried about travelling when it comes to medical stuff. (there if the money side of things, but that tends to be covered in most cases of people travelling as it is)

Re:Only $12~18K? (1)

Xanlexian (122112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330202)

With the low cost of modern computer technology, why does this device have to be THAT pricey? Just wondering.

Medical certifications.

Re:Only $12~18K? (2)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330706)

Because it also includes a way to subdue uppity patients. "Phrazer on stun!"

Re:Only $12~18K? (1)

Foobar of Borg (690622) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330754)

Because it also includes a way to subdue uppity patients. "Phrazer on stun!"

"Don't Phraze me, bro!"

or they could have doctor house consult (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328424)

With a flick of his magical cane he can diagnose anything.

I think i'll wait until theres a app for my iphone for $2.99

Re:or they could have doctor house consult (2)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328436)

With a flick of his magical cane he can diagnose anything.

I think i'll wait until theres a app for my iphone for $2.99

The first thing that app will tell you is "I don't care what the symptoms are, it's not Lupus."

Re:or they could have doctor house consult (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328538)

What sucks is I've stopped watching the show after a few years thinking one season finale everyone he treats will have lupus.

Re:or they could have doctor house consult (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328572)

You mean by randomly trying every medication they have in the hospital and doing every test procedure they can do he finally stumbles upon it. Which is a little less cool than using a magical cane.

Re:or they could have doctor house consult (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328614)

You mean by randomly trying every medication they have in the hospital and doing every test procedure they can do he finally stumbles upon it. Which is a little less cool than using a magical cane.

Didn't Microsoft patent a wand?

Yeah, what's with the hype about House MD anyway? (3)

KWTm (808824) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329230)

You mean by randomly trying every medication they have in the hospital and doing every test procedure they can do he finally stumbles upon it. Which is a little less cool than using a magical cane.

Took the words right out of my mouth.

I hadn't seen the TV show House M.D. till last week. As a physician, I had been seeing patients from time to time comment about this TV show, so finally I got around to watching a few episodes.

I didn't get it at all. This guy is supposed to be some unpersonable irascible doctor who somehow makes up for it by being such a brilliant diagnostician that other doctors are forced to come to him. WTF??? How do you pick up diagnostic clues without having the patient warm up to you so you can understand the details of his/her illness in context? Not to mention that the systematic testing and narrowing in on diagnostic possibilities, that process which on this TV show is supposed to be what makes Dr.House so brilliant, is what all of us doctors do on a daily basis anyway.

If there were a "House, I.T." equivalent, it would feature some supposedly brilliant I.T. tech support guy who refused to touch the computer. His underlings would overcome this deficiency by reading the dmesg logs to him word for word, and then House would come up with some purportedly brilliant insight like "We need to upgrade the video drivers!" at which point all would fall on their knees in fawning worship, chanting "No one else would ever have been able to figure that out!" ... I guess to be on-topic, I should talk about this device. Yes, it's nice to have a portable multilingual multimedia medical dictionary around, but this device is hardly newsworthy. Guess what? My Nokia N900 smartphone running Python, Bash and SSHd is also capable of implementing a system to overcome language barriers! It's called ... making a phone call to an interpreter service! (Also available on non-Linux smartphones, non-smart cellphones, and non-cell phones.)

Day of disillusionment. Might as well go all the way. Okay, Slashdot, tell me about how new Electronic Medical Record policies will cure my patients.

Re:Yeah, what's with the hype about House MD anywa (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329512)

I got sucked in and started watching the whole thing from scratch starting about a month ago. I get the impression that it's a black comedy where he's the bastard doctor from hell that runs up millions in tests and hurts patients but typically gets it right after a lot of false starts to avoid it being a tragedy.

Re:Yeah, what's with the hype about House MD anywa (2)

Blymie (231220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329718)

Don't watch any more, I beg you.

Watching a TV show about your profession, is like watching teaching videos which are designed to teach you how to do everything wrong.

These teaching videos are coupled with strange music, which convey emotion in places that no normal person would feel strong emotion. They portray professionals acting as drama queens, as children, incapable of performing their job.

This is quite literally part of the problem with modern society. Heck, want to marry living hell? Marry a chick that watches soaps.

Stay away. If you are in law, especially a law student, STAY AWAY from law TV shows.

Stay away.

Re:Yeah, what's with the hype about House MD anywa (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330648)

Why?

House is still pretty good TV, Hugh Laurie makes up for a lot of short comings in other areas. Of course that's a matter of taste and many people disagree but it's pretty much independant of it being realistic.

it's not supposed to be realistic, it is after all a TV show. CSI isn't realistic either, nor is White Collar. House isn't about the medicine, it's about the characters. Just like West Wing wasn't about the runnings of Government but about the characters.

Yes if you treat House as a teaching video for Medicine you'll do exactly as well as if you used Blackadder Foes Forth as a teaching video for the army.

$12k - $18k? (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328430)

All that for only 12 to 18 thousand dollars.

If it's only $12k - $18k for the system, well, that's a bargain. If it's $12k - $18k for using the service, well, I doubt my health insurance is going to cover it.

Single Languages (1)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328450)

With over 170 languages spoken in the US alone, medical personnel attending an emergency or working in a busy hospital are no doubt often faced with communication problems when trying to dispense treatment.

And how many non-English monolingual people are there in the US?

Re:Single Languages (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328496)

With over 170 languages spoken in the US alone, medical personnel attending an emergency or working in a busy hospital are no doubt often faced with communication problems when trying to dispense treatment.

And how many non-English monolingual people are there in the US?

Well if its my mother in law you will have a choice between cantonese, mandarin and hokkien but if an ambulance crew need to get information from her they will have to resort to translation.

Re:Single Languages (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328526)

And how many non-English monolingual people are there in the US?

You aren't serious, are you?

There are significant portions of the country (typically ethnic enclaves such as Chinatowns or Hispanic sections in southwestern cities) where such people would be the majority. We're talking about tens of millions of people. (According to statistics from the Census bureau and the CIA world fact book, the number would be between 12 and 19 million.)

Re:Single Languages (0)

painehope (580569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328746)

And how does this excuse stupidity?

"Gee, I'm in your country, can't speak your language, and now I might die because I can't communicate with you - you should buy devices that translate my speech for you!". Yeah, go to another country and try that one - they'll still be laughing while you're floating in a tunnel w/ Elvis and your grandmother...

It's called natural selection, it's good for the human race. Stop fighting it, you're only encouraging the idiots...

Re:Single Languages (2)

ZackSchil (560462) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328848)

Go to another country and they will find someone who can speak English with relative ease. English is spoken globally and unlike the US, most people in other developed countries (and undeveloped countries!) speak more than one language.

Re:Single Languages (1)

WaroDaBeast (1211048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329126)

Exactly. If developed countries want to deserve that appellation, they should be way more than just monolingual. Hey, it's a good thing for tourism and against dementia after all.

Re:Single Languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328956)

... Um, no. Actually, here in Australia, we have a free 24x7 over the phone translation service run by the government for precisely this kind of situation.

http://www.immi.gov.au/living-in-australia/help-with-english/help_with_translating/free-services.htm

Re:Single Languages (1)

shrimppesto (766285) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328992)

"Gee, I'm in your country, can't speak your language, and now I might die because I can't communicate with you - you should buy devices that translate my speech for you!". ... It's called natural selection, it's good for the human race. Stop fighting it, you're only encouraging the idiots...

um... you're an asshole. just sayin'.

Re:Single Languages (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329032)

The United States does not have a national language, so what language is "your language" in your example?

Re:Single Languages (1)

Atriqus (826899) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329244)

And how does this excuse stupidity?

"Gee, I'm in your country, can't speak your language, and now I might die because I can't communicate with you"

Ugh, after reading that I now have to wipe all the xenophobia off of me. You say the above like people have the luxury of making those decisions; not everyone does. Sometimes shit goes south and just you have to leave. And when that happens to people who are adults, the bar is even higher since the brain has pretty much called it quits at learning additional languages at that point.

Inevitably though, these people will have to interact with the native populations that don't speak their language. And when that happens, the natives can get all indignant about it, or they can try to overcome the language barrier so everyone can get on with their lives. It looks like these doctors are going for the latter this time.

Re:Single Languages (2)

theycallmeB (606963) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328550)

And how many non-English monolingual people are there in the US?

Quite a few, and far more who can order a sandwich or find a restroom but get stumped by 'Do you have a family history of hypertension or cardiac arrhythmia?'

Re:Single Languages (1)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328676)

Many (nay, most) native English speakers would be stumped by:

'Do you have a family history of hypertension or cardiac arrhythmia?'

That's why doctors say "high blood pressure" and "irregular heartbeat". And those who have trouble understanding terms like these will have trouble with more than just ordering sandwiches. You can't, for instance, just point to a driver's license application and say, "I want this".

Re:Single Languages (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328732)

You can't, for instance, just point to a driver's license application and say, "I want this".

Lord knows, after wandering into the DMV drunk after getting my DUI, this definitely does not work!

Re:Single Languages (2)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328586)

tens of millions.

Plus some tourists.

Plus the people who can usually speak English but while in shock or just after suffering head trauma can't manage it for a little while.

Plus the people who have can speak English for every day life but can't quite pull off medical terminology.

Re:Single Languages (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328706)

"And how many non-English monolingual people are there in the US?" Actually quite a bit. My wife occasionnaly work as a korean interpret for columbus (Ohio) hospitals. And she has a case every week with the hospital. Sometimes, it is not that the patient does not speak english, but s/he doesnot feel confident enough in english to fully understand what the doctor says. Some other times, the patient is a housewife who spent time with her (korean) friends and probably do not speak english every week. I am not even talking about tourist. So I'd say that yes there is a demand for medical interpretation. 15k for a single device seems a quite a high price, since you will probably need more than one in an hospital to avoid carrying it all around the place.

Re:Single Languages (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329024)

Depends on the State. Here in Alaska, a good number, in California, Texas, Florida, Arizona and New Mexico you'll have more than a few.

Then get into the seasonal farm workers in the west and Pacific Northwest and theres a ton.

Overall, probably 3% don't speak English at all, so about 9 million, give or take a percentage.

In Klingon .... (4, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328470)

... the only phrase it knows is "Perhaps today is a good day to die". That keeps the whole health care process pretty simple.

Re:In Klingon .... (2)

jcwayne (995747) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328510)

Hey, as long as they're here we should make them feel welcome. [blogspot.com]

Re:In Klingon .... (2)

lul_wat (1623489) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329138)

Pandering to these multi-cultural liberals has gone too far!! Earth for Earthlings!

Make English an Official Language? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328486)

Here's an idea: why not make English an official language of the United States. English is already the unofficial language used when doing international business, and it is also the language most often used in science.

If Pakistan can have English as their official language then why not the United States?

Re:Make English an Official Language? (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328552)

You're arguing semantics. Whether or not we do that, we're still going to have to have our ambulance crews and first responders be able to handle tourists without a good grasp of English that might fall ill while on holiday here. Do you really think it's going to be good for our standing in the world if it gets around that our arrogant need to self aggrandize just cost one of their citizens' lives?

Re:Make English an Official Language? (-1, Troll)

perpetual pessimist (1245416) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328580)

Do you really think it's going to be good for our standing in the world if it gets around that our arrogant need to self aggrandize just cost one of their citizens' lives?

Fuck our "standing in the world". I don't give a damn what others think of my country, and I'm pretty sure they don't care what I think of theirs.

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

bertoelcon (1557907) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328622)

Do you really think it's going to be good for our standing in the world if it gets around that our arrogant need to self aggrandize just cost one of their citizens' lives?

Fuck our "standing in the world". I don't give a damn what others think of my country, and I'm pretty sure they don't care what I think of theirs.

Damn, I wish I still had mod points for this.

Re:Make English an Official Language? (0)

painehope (580569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328756)

Right on! I wish I hadn't posted, this would be getting modded up right now!

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328838)

Your solipsism does not scale well.

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

Stiletto (12066) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328876)

Fuck our "standing in the world". I don't give a damn what others think of my country, and I'm pretty sure they don't care what I think of theirs.

Your attitude and the actions of those who share it is why we have to be careful self-identifying as Americans when travelling to certain countries.

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

Blymie (231220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329776)

No!!

Correalation does not imply causation!

It is imperitive that you throw off the shackles of peer pressure. More horror has been thrust upon the world due to peer pressure, than anything .. even religion.

You should not have a care in the world about what your fellow man thinks about your actions. Certainly, you need to define and live by a moral code, but hell.. in most cases peer pressure is the opposite of that.

Being moral is NOT a popularity contest!

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328592)

Yeah that'll magically make everyone who needs medical attention be able to speak English.

Re:Make English an Official Language? (0)

painehope (580569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328716)

No, but it will encourage natural selection...

Re:Make English an Official Language? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329548)

The ability to speak English is genetic?

Re:Make English an Official Language? (4, Insightful)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328596)

Here's an idea: why not make English an official language of the United States. English is already the unofficial language used when doing international business, and it is also the language most often used in science.

If Pakistan can have English as their official language then why not the United States?

Because "official languages" are languages used by government, not languages people are forced to use with ER after severe head trauma. "Sorry, you have to communicate only in English" doesn't sound like something someone dedicated to saving lives is going to want to have to say.

However, this system seems to imply that people whose stronger languages aren't English are literate enough in those other languages to comprehend the feedback in not only triage, but a complete medical diagnostic. I find this a bit of wishful thinking. But if the device can actually pull it off, it's price tag is extremely cheap.

Hungarian translation mode (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328492)

"Please fondle my buttocks!"

Re:Hungarian translation mode (2)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329156)

you pressed the TSA button by mistake, I see.

Female talk to male talk translator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328508)

The Manslater,
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezVib_giTFo [youtube.com]

Virtual Personal Translation Assistant (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328574)

Can they really call it a doctor? Don't get me wrong, I'd be super impressed if it works even 95% accurate for that many languages, but isn't this just a translation assistant that could be used in any number of other circumstances? I wouldn't be surprised if it's an offshoot of the military tech used for on the ground translation.

Personal pet peeve: if they can do this kind of interpersonal interface, where the hell is my personal assistant that does all my scheduling, pays my bills, and reorders my basic and favorite supplies? Despite all the good aspects of it, some things about divorce suck.

HEX

Re:Virtual Personal Translation Assistant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328682)

+++ Out of Cheese Error +++ Redo from start +++

predicted years ago (1)

rev_sanchez (691443) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328602)

Idiocracy predicted [flickr.com] this.

170 Languages (1)

VTI9600 (1143169) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328624)

English & Spanish != 170 languages

Let's be practical here...move 170 multilingual people to another country and you can make the exact same claim. This really seems like overkill for any practical purpose.

Re:170 Languages (2)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328798)

English and Spanish are without a doubt the two most common languages spoken in the US. But it's a rare day that I can get to work (in Manhattan) without hearing at least four languages spoken -- most often English, Spanish, German (tourists. whenever there are non-English speaking tourists in NYC, they are inevitably German) and some form of Chinese, but I lack the skill to tell the dialects apart. Less often I get Russian, Greek, Korean, Vietnamese, French, or Hindi. About once a week I hear something that I can't identify (I recently found myself staring at some guy because I was fascinated by the cadence of his language. I had it pegged as something African but couldn't do better than that in the two minutes I was near him).

Re:170 Languages (2)

donscarletti (569232) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329196)

some form of Chinese, but I lack the skill to tell the dialects apart.

It's hard, especially since regional accents tend to affect the sound more than the actual dialect, a Cantonese person speaking Mandarin still sounds very Cantonese. But since you seem to be interested.

Mandarin is now the most commonly heard but twenty years ago it was never spoken outside of mainland China. You tend to hear it spoken by newer immigrants and students, often young girls chatting noisily on the train. Unlike other dialects, it has an uneven rhythm, usually syllables are said in pairs, due to the disyllabic words, giving it a more familiar sound to English speakers. Its consonants tend to be dominated by fricative and affricate types, giving it kind of rough sound to it. It is tonal, but the tones are not as obvious to a non speaker as in other dialects. People from north China often accentuate the terminal "r", if you hear many words ending with "r" you know it is Mandarin and also where the speaker is from.

Cantonese is what you hear older, more settled immigrants speaking. Many English speaking countries have been open to HK immigration for far longer. What you hear spoken around Chinatown and in well established Chinese restaurants is likely to be Cantonese (or maybe Hokkien). It has a steady rhythm, syllables come out quickly at an even pace as the way an Italian speaker would speak, it is also very tonal giving it a tune to every sentence, almost as it is sung. Syllables also often end very sharply, rather than trailing off or rolling into an r how they do in Mandarin. To me, I tend to hear more nasal and plosive consonants.

The third is Hokkien, it is also spoken by older immigrants but is less common than Cantonese in most areas. I speak precisely zero, so I identify it by being unable to comprehend a word.

Re:170 Languages (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329060)

My wife works at a High School where about 64 languages are spoken at home and the district has roughly 10% of the students from non English or Spanish speaking homes.

Thats in Alaska.

Sounds Dangerous (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328652)

"Drop your panties, Sir William; I cannot wait until lunchtime!"

From the perspective of a potential user... (3, Insightful)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328658)

I'm a physician, and this kind of stuff is medical shovelware. It will be sold to some poor hospital administrator somewhere who is not medically trained but who thinks that this sounds like a right easy solution to the problem of those non-English-speaking people who keep bumping up the delay times in the ER (a real problem in parts of the country that are just now seeing significant Hispanic influx, like much of the South and Midwest). Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses at the front line will find it ill-suited to what they actually need to accomplish. Flash cards work pretty well for most communication to rule out immediately life-threatening illnesses. After that, you really need a highly qualified translator. Maybe in five years, or a decade, machines will be at that point (although they'll be Google Translate's server farms, not some hand-held piece of junk), but they're not there yet, and it's wasteful and stupid to pretend that they are.

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329340)

..this sounds like a right easy solution to the problem of those non-English-speaking people who keep bumping up the delay times in the ER (a real problem in parts of the country that are just now seeing significant Hispanic influx, like much of the South and Midwest).

Ah, but while such things might be a permanent problem in countries with socialized medicine, in the USA the free market will rapidly increase supply of health care to meet the demand for health care.

For example, in a country with socialized medicine you might have an artificial scarcity of doctors (driving up doctor salaries but decreasing the quality of care - e.g. increased ER wait times). But, in the USA, it's complete laissez faire: anyone who wants to can go to medical school and start practicing medicine - in fact, anyone who wants to can start practicing medicine without any training at all. The free market just sorts it all out: if someone is not a good doctor their clinic goes out of business because of a shortage of patients. And a permanent shortage of doctors (increasing wait time in the ER) is completely impossible.

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (2)

deuist (228133) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329466)

Plus, we already have translation phones that do this. My hospital has a contract to a language line where I make a call to a 1-800 number, punch in my access code, and can find a translator for any language in less than a minute. In the past year I've used Spanish, Italian, Russian, Albanian, Chinese and Czech. I can get through the patient interview and even give discharge instructions with relative ease. And if I can't find the translator phone, Google translate works in a pinch.

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330318)

What is this service? My wife is a doctor at a couple hospitals, and this might be of use to her hospitals.

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35330136)

I'm a physician, and this kind of stuff is medical shovelware. It will be sold to some poor hospital administrator somewhere who is not medically trained but who thinks that this sounds like a right easy solution to the problem of those non-English-speaking people who keep bumping up the delay times in the ER (a real problem in parts of the country that are just now seeing significant Hispanic influx, like much of the South and Midwest). Meanwhile, the doctors and nurses at the front line will find it ill-suited to what they actually need to accomplish. Flash cards work pretty well for most communication to rule out immediately life-threatening illnesses. After that, you really need a highly qualified translator. Maybe in five years, or a decade, machines will be at that point (although they'll be Google Translate's server farms, not some hand-held piece of junk), but they're not there yet, and it's wasteful and stupid to pretend that they are.

It sounds like the physicians in your area just need to learn a little Spanish. Maybe an intensive Spanish course for front-line practitioners would be more cost-effective and useful?

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (1)

Xacid (560407) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330182)

Ok so they learn Spanish? What about the third patient who speaks neither English nor Spanish?

I'm not saying learning Spanish is a bad thing, but it's not going to address the same scale that this device is claiming to (or even a few sets of the flash cards parent mentions).

Re:From the perspective of a potential user... (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330384)

To be fair, though, learning Spanish would probably address 80+% of the patients you see outside of a few ethnic enclaves like Chinatowns. At least in TX anyway, knowing Spanish and English basically guarantees you will be able to talk to any patient you see except the extremely rare case like a family visiting from Bhutan.

That being said, given how much a doctor's time is worth, I'd imagine a $16K subscription service to a translation hotline for an entire hospital is far cheaper than paying for Spanish classes for nearly every new doctor/resident to come through the doors.

ah (1)

Ryanrule (1657199) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328692)

i see the future is currently arriving. /waits for flying car

Or the converse... (1)

Gailin (138488) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328698)

As someone who has been getting treated for a couple years at numerous hospitals. I find that commonly I have communication problems with the nurses. For a seemingly uncommon number of them English was not their first language (anecdotal xp of course). Unfortunately, their English skills are lacking. Many times I wonder if they understand what the patient is saying, or if they just nod there head and carry on their routine. I am in no way diminishing their ability, dedication or intellect. Just that their ability to communicate effectively is lacking when using what seems to be a second language to them.

Call me an asshole... (-1, Flamebait)

painehope (580569) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328708)

But if you move to a country, then you should speak enough of a language to at least tell your symptoms to a doctor. If you don't, you fucking deserve what you get, plain and simple

For all the fuzzy bleeding heart fucks that will undoubtedly call me a racist, unrealistic, nationalist scumbag - I'll point this out. I don't go to foreign countries and expect them to speak English. When I am in a foreign country, I pick up enough fo the dialogue (not to mention carrying a small translation guide) to function for the duration of my stay. If you go to another country and expect people to speak English, you get treated like the self-centered stereotypical American tourist fuck you are. I don't see how it's one goddamn bit different when you come to this country.

And I really hate people who come to the U.S. and think that Spanish should be automatically spoken (particularly by government functionaries who dispense medical care and benefits, welfare, and other things that my taxes pay for and these fucks don't). Almost as much as I hate the shitheads that say "well, if you're going to live in the U.S., Spanish is a good second language to speak!" (like that's something that's acceptable or we should be tolerant of). Why would I, as an intelligent, educated technical person want Spanish as a second language (admittedly I am somewhat fluent, but I live in Texas - it's hard not to pick up some)? Why not Cantonese, Nipponese, or another language that would enable me to deal with citizens of another technologically advanced country that does a fair amount of international business? Wouldn't that serve me much better if I want to learn a foreign language?

And Spanish is a foreign language in the U.S. - deal with it or choke to death in an ambulance because you can't tell the paramedics that you have an allergy or whatever other consequence of your foolishness that results.

Re:Call me an asshole... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328790)

What about tourists? Or people still learning the language? You're saying anyone going to America should have learned English well enough prior to arrival to get medical care or else they deserve to die? Nice.

Re:Call me an asshole... (0)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329068)

The United States does not have an official language.

So what about the Reservations, Alaska Natives? No medical service if they don't speak English?

Re:Call me an asshole... (1)

tetromino (807969) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329202)

I don't go to foreign countries and expect them to speak English. When I am in a foreign country, I pick up enough fo the dialogue (not to mention carrying a small translation guide) to function for the duration of my stay.

Oh really? When you are visiting a foreign country, are you sure you can "pick up enough of the dialog" to be able to explain to a local doctor what the symptoms that you have suddenly developed are, what your and your family's medical history is, and what local medicines you are allergic to (remember, the same drugs are typically sold under different brand names in different parts of the world; a foreign doctor may well have no idea what you mean by "Tylenol") — while experiencing fever and pain that would have taxed your ability to coherently express yourself in English?

Re:Call me an asshole... (1)

517714 (762276) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329236)

OK, you are an asshole. You are also a racist, unrealistic, nationalist scumbag, but you do know how to do a good self assessment. ; )

Adopting English as the official language of the US, a proposal which I have advocated, will not accomplish what you want which is obviously to "send them all back where they belong." Are you too timid to state your true thoughts?

Not just telling symptoms (1)

nickruiz (1185947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329238)

But if you move to a country, then you should speak enough of a language to at least tell your symptoms to a doctor. If you don't, you deserve what you get, plain and simple

Telling your symptoms is probably the easiest part of communicating with a doctor in a foreign language. The hard part is understanding their reply. Machine translation in the medical field is intended to handle the more difficult parts of translation, such as explaining to the patient what's wrong. No "tourist" can be expected to know the names of all of the viruses or sicknesses they could possibly get when they go to another country. Additionally, patients need to know what their treatment options are without ambiguity so that they can make an informed decision. As an American researcher who has been studying in other countries, I know how difficult it could be when my wife had to go to the hospital.

Why would I, as an intelligent, educated technical person want Spanish as a second language (admittedly I am somewhat fluent, but I live in Texas - it's hard not to pick up some)? Why not Cantonese, Nipponese, or another language that would enable me to deal with citizens of another technologically advanced country that does a fair amount of international business? Wouldn't that serve me much better if I want to learn a foreign language?

Generally, you should learn languages that are most useful in regular day-to-day multicultural interaction. Seeing that you don't plan to lave the USA, perhaps it's not necessary for you to learn other languages. But I'm constantly impressed by Europeans I meet that speak 3-4 languages with ease and don't complain about my beginner's Italian or Dutch level.

While I think that this product is still a far cry away from what it needs to be (and far too expensive), this is a move in the right direction.

Re:Not just telling symptoms (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329638)

Telling your symptoms is probably the easiest part of communicating with a doctor in a foreign language. The hard part is understanding their reply.

For some people that's a struggle even in their native language.

nalla devalapment (0)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328784)

ldhu nalla devalapment. romba appirishiyEte paNNaREn. bEsh! bEsh! bhalE! bhalE!

Constitution (0)

tchiwam (751440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35328836)

If I remember right, the English language is not part of the constitution. So no one can force you to speak it.

pay for its self (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35328930)

That will pay for its self fairly quickly.

One option use to be have someone on staff that could speak Spanish and you were set (in the us). But even now, thats not enough. So many different people of different backgrounds needing care and we are required to provide interpretation service. We are no longer allowed to use kids or other family members to do it.

The remaining option is to pay for an interpretation service. They either send someone to you on site, or you call them up with a phone that has 2 receivers. One for you and one for the patient. I know having someone show up on site is expensive. I think we could buy 2 of these a year at the rate we pay for the service.

The first? (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329122)

I live in Belgium. Every communication system I work on is multilingual and has been for many years.

Re:The first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329312)

IMO, the slashdot summary's quote shouldn't have had that comma after "first multilingual communication system". Its first-ness depends on that feature list.

SSDD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329300)

Same Shit, Different Dunces...

This exact piece of crap was peddled to the DoD as a "battlefield translator", that would supposedly allow a squad of English speaking Soldiers or Marines on the ground to do without a translator for basic tasks.

It failed miserably, couldn't even make it past limited, controlled, State-side testing... so now they're going after the private sector. I guess they figure the only people who like worthless expensive gizmos more than the mil is the medical sector.

For the xenophobes and small-town residents (4, Informative)

tetromino (807969) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329320)

who are wondering why healthcare language barrier is such a major issue in America:
  • In major US cities, there are a lot of people who were born overseas and don't known English well. They include foreign tourists (whose grasp of English may be limited to a few dozen phrases from a guidebook); recently arrived immigrants who haven't had time to fully learn the language; and residents of ethnic enclaves who don't know much English because they don't need to — 95% of their daily communication is in another language.
  • Human biology being what it is, the people who are the most likely to find themselves in need of medical attention are old. And old people universally suck at languages. They have trouble remembering new vocabulary, they have trouble getting the pronunciation right, and when they get stressed (such as when they are in a hospital due to a sudden medical problem), they tend to forget English words and phrases and have to resort to their native language.
  • Even foreigners who know English fairly well may have trouble with medical vocabulary (if you don't believe me, here is a quick illustration: if there is a foreign language that you think you know pretty well, try saying "irregular heartbeat" or "intestinal bleeding" in it). Not to mention the prevalence of false cognates (e.g. "angina" means "chest pains" in English and "tonsillitis" in Russian) and the fact that different countries often use completely different names for the same drug.

Phone translation (1)

crossmr (957846) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329354)

Seems like it would cover this and is already used. Canadian hospitals and clinics have a translation card. The patient points to their language a call is made to the translation service and someone who speaks that language is put on the line. I'm guessing it would take a lot of those calls to justify even a single unit at 1 hospital.

Re:Phone translation (1)

Blymie (231220) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329800)

Unless you are in Quebec.

Plot Killer (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329558)

Shipboard fire survivor: "Keyser Soze"

Phrazer:"It was Kevin Spacey"

You can thank the Jews for destroying your country (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35329724)

"With over 170 languages spoken in the US alone,"
Oh yes, what a great success 'diversity' is.

After all, we can't have white people being allowed to have their OWN countries any more, can we! The T.V. said so!

Do any of you have a good reason why white people should have to watch their countries, which THEY built, being invaded by millions of third worlders?

Does it handle drugs? (1)

dejanc (1528235) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329726)

This seems very useful for multi-ethnic countries. In USA everybody is sort of expected to learn English (though many people never do, or at least not good enough to be able to communicate their medical history). In other parts of the world, people with different native languages coexist in same countries or even same towns and villages, and none are expected to have a good grasp of the local majority language.

Does it handle drugs though? To be fully useful for tourists or recent immigrants, it should hold a database of world drugs. Apart from some over-the-counter drugs, most medication differs from country to country and doctors really should know what sort of medication their patience take.

So the American version can say.. (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329748)

"Do you have insurance or will you be paying cash?" in 170 languages?

Why not educate instead? (1)

Barryke (772876) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329856)

Why not do the same thing the rest of the world is seemingly capable of, and educate people to be apt in more than their native tongue?

A perspective:
"All over the world children receive foreign language education at an early age. In 2002 the EU member states signed the ‘Treaty of Barcelona’, thereby stating their intention to start foreign language education in primary school at the earliest possible age. " - http://www.earlybirdie.nl/english [earlybirdie.nl]

Gokubi or Mandarax? (1)

gratuitous_arp (1650741) | more than 3 years ago | (#35329932)

So, is it called Gokubi or have they upgraded to Mandarax?

Interoperable with EMRs my ass (1)

Saerko (1174897) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330294)

I call bullshit on the interoperability with most EMRs. Most likely, this thing is just putting HL7 wrappers around some basic ADT info and dumping it into the system, which may or may not have interfaces built to actually use that information. Even if it does, a lot of it will probably come over as free text plopped into some arbitrary field, or worse--will require the hospital/health system using it to direct that information somewhere using eGate or a like technology. This is the sort of thing that healthcare IT shops hate with a passion. It's yet another device we have to support that uses the interfaces that are already unreliable and doesn't put data where we really want it, which is within the clinical documentation that's custom-built at EVERY HOSPITAL IN THE UNITED STATES. Believe me--I'm working weekends right now trying to get an "out of the box" clinical documentation system up, and "out of the box" went "out of the window" about six months ago. I'd rather use that 12-18 grand (plus whatever would be budgeted for making it actually work with the EMR) to send my clinical staff to basic medical translation classes for the languages we see most commonly.

Just Use Google Translate or something (1)

TheoMurpse (729043) | more than 3 years ago | (#35330302)

My wife is a surgical resident. While she speaks a number of languages such that she has not had a language barrier problem, one of her coworkers only knows English. He has something on his iPhone (IIRC, one of the Google apps + the ability to have the iPhone read things out loud + the iPhone's voice recognition) that he uses. Apparently it works quite well. He speaks into it in English, it translates to Spanish, and the iPhone speaks the Spanish. His patient can speak Spanish into it, translate to English, and so on.

For simple things like "where does it hurt?" or "have you had any diarrhea?" it is reported to work well for him.

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