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Medical Translator Used Successfully

samzenpus posted more than 8 years ago | from the but-does-it-know-orcish dept.


saskboy writes "Translations of medical questions posed by doctors to their patients were provided by a new Canadian designed computer called MedBridge. "Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Portuguese, French, and Russian," are some of the languages the MedBridge can work with. CBC reports, "If a patient is deaf, the system can also translate into American Sign Language using video. The MedBridge system is already in use at hospitals in New York, Toronto and Halifax." Pretranslated questions are stored in the computer and the doctor chooses from the list of questions to ask. It's not quite a Universal Translator, but it should improve doctor-patient communication."

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In other news... (-1, Flamebait)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832181)

Linux is STILL for fags.

Re:In other news... (0, Offtopic)

east coast (590680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832198)

There. I beat you to it!

Re:In other news... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832542)

Then quit using GNU tools on BSD, queer.

Fag is the worst insult you can think of? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832241)

Come on, there's way worse insults: Linux is for baby-fuckers. Linux is for micrencephalic donky-rapers. Linux is for sperm-burping gutter sluts. Linux is for pencil-dicked east coasters. And so on.

For God's sake, come out of the closet already. Only closeted homosexuals cast aspersions on other people's homosexuality.

Re:Fag is the worst insult you can think of? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832727)

Come on, there's way worse insults: Linux is for baby-fuckers. Linux is for micrencephalic donky-rapers. Linux is for sperm-burping gutter sluts. Linux is for pencil-dicked east coasters. And so on.

How about linux is for linux users!!!

I Can't Swallow That!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832465)

Well, good news! It's a supossitory.

Another Roadblock (1)

TheOzz (888649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832183)

The article mentions dialects as a potential roadblock. There is no mention of how this system would allow for the patient to ask questions. That is another pretty big hurdle.

Re:Another Roadblock (1)

psycho chic (958251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832229)

The article also describes this as a point/click system. What happens when a patient needs an option that isnt there, such as "i have sharp pains on my left side, and i'm numb on the right." On the other hand, I work with people who have disabilies, and this would be a GREAT way for those who are nonverbal to answer questions. Less guessing for me to do when I have to take them to the doctor! Heck, I'd like one of these in my group home! ("would you like to take a walk or play soccer today?")

Re:Another Roadblock (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14834155)

That's because they couldn't find any doctors who were interested in what the patient had to say.

Application? (1)

Kawahee (901497) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832205)

I don't understand where this would be useful. In a clinic dealing with patients who don't speak English as a first language, yes, but at the practice I go to they already have Chinese/English speaking doctors, as well as several others who are multilingual, which works fine.

It looks useful on paper, but in reality I think it will just be an extra expense for very little return.

Re:Application? (1)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832240)

yes, but at the practice I go to they already have Chinese/English speaking doctors, as well as several others who are multilingual, which works fine.

For most clinics, it probably is more along the lines of "cool toy" than "useful tool" but with the number of languages it supports, I could see it being more useful in a downtown clinic in a big city like New York when someone who speaks Chinese comes in and all you've got on hand is English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Russian.

Personally, I'm surprised that they went to the trouble of having it translate to sign language, when with a display, wouldn't it have been easier to simply print the text in the language of choice?

Re:Application? (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832507)

I am guessing because ASL is somewhat international, where as written English isn't nearly as much so.

Re:Application? (1)

purelander007 (944989) | more than 8 years ago | (#14835933)

Actually the reason to interpret to video for ASL makes a lot of sense if you know some ASL. ASL and English are completely different and it is often hard for a person who speaks ASL as their first language to switch to reading English (thus one of the reasons for the existence of ESL, which is evil but necessary).

Re:Application? (1)

wired_parrot (768394) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832264)

This is extremely useful if it works well. There isn't always available someone who can speak the other language, especially in rural areas. And even when a translator is available, it is often a layperson or a relative who does not have knowledge of medical terminology to adequately translate the patient's symptoms to the doctor. A patient suffering from a STD may well withhold embarassing information about his symptoms if forced to translate through a relative.

Re:Application? (1)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832384)

wired_parrot wrote:
A patient suffering from a STD may well withhold embarassing information about his symptoms if forced to translate through a relative.

Absolutely, nobody likes to talk about Chlamydia Psittaci (parrot fever) [] . :)

Re:Application? (2, Insightful)

246o1 (914193) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832278)

It's a lot cheaper than getting a staff of multilingual doctors, and while it would have to be quickly available in emergency situations, it could be very useful in rural applications.

If it's expense is a drawback, then several rural hospitals could get one together, and then when someone made an appointment and requested translation services, they could make sure it was at the right hospital on the right day.

This is a good practical application of translation software in a situation with clear context and limited, specialized vocabulary.

Where I live now, in rural Japan, there are people who speak little Japanese but still need medical services in English, Korean, Portuguese, Thai, Vietnamese, and Chinese, to name a few. This kind of device could be tremendously useful around here (though English isn't a problematic language, the others would be for many hospitals).

You seem to have a very skewed view of the diversity of medical staffs around the world, if you assume that every hospital will always have a doctor who can speak any necessary language available when he/she's needed.

Re:Application? (1)

mooingyak (720677) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832663)

I work in a small office not far outside NYC. We have a staff around 60. I've overheard the following languages, spoken by fluent speakers, from my co-workers:


There are two guys that speak Farsi, but I haven't heard them talk to each other in anything but English.

We're a small segment of the population. Those same people speak English with varying degrees of fluency. Good luck finding a practice that has doctors who speak all those languages.

Re:Application? (1)

Narphorium (667794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832753)

This system is developed here in Canada. In Canada we have public health care so we don't have Chinese people going to Chinese clinics and English people going to English clinic, the majority of people go to the English/French hospitals which are free for everyone. In large multi-cultural cities like Toronto and Montreal this would be very useful.

If you're looking for applications outside of Canada, think of the Red Cross and thier emergency relief efforts. If an earthquake happens in Pakistan would you only send people who speak Punjabi or whould you prefer to send anyone who has medical expertise?

Re:Application? (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834159)

Not to bash people who don't speak english, and live in an english country, but I would like to know how they get around in day to day life. I find that knowing how to speak the language spoken by everyone else is important. If I were to move to a country that spoke a different language, I would make every effort possible to learn that language. I took a trip to Quebec, and feel completely helpless because I don't speak french as well as I would like to. How do people carry on their day-to-day lives, without knowing the language that everyone is speaking?

Re:Application? (1)

Narphorium (667794) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834492)

In the large multicultural cities its common to find all sorts of little subcommunities arranged by culture. So people in China Town or Little Italy or some other community can get by speaking only their mother tongue. Of course everyone has to know at least some English to read traffic signs etc. but for things like legal advice or medical attention I think they would be more at ease in their native language.

Re:Application? (1)

chinodelosmuertos (805584) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832947)

Yeah. Never thought I'd completely disagree, but I completely disagree. Patients get admitted to hospitals when they get sick. They don't have the choice on going to one where doctors may or may not speak their language. A heart attack happens when a heart attack happens and a patient will be sent to a hospital, where doctors will all of the sudden be forced to make minute to minute decisions based on the answers a patient gives. Where's the pain? What's the character of the pain? Does it radiate? What makes it better? We need to know these things and need to know em quick. Multilingual doctors? Say you have a hospital in an English speaking country with 200 doctors. how many do you expect to speak Tagalog/Gujarat/Bahasa/Japanese/Italian/Arabic? 1? 2? What if he's with a patient/in theatre/in consult rooms/sick? Hospitals (mine included) have translators on call for over 30 languages. When someone presents acutely, and we don't have time to get someone in, there's a hotline with translators on the other end we can use. It's an antiquated system but it works well. If this computer thingo works just as well, then yes, it's useful.

Re:Application? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833005)

Some clinics may happen to have doctors and nurses who speak the languages of their clientele, but communication between patients and medical staff is a significant problem in the United States. I had a post [] about this on Language Log a while back that contains links to other information. There are large numbers of patients who do not speak English well and cannot make use of a clinic whose staff speak their language. That may be because they speak a language that is not well enough represented in the US. In many cases an ethnic group is underrepresented in the medical profession. There are lots of Chinese doctors, for example, but even proportionately very few Hmong. And in many places the distribution of people just doesn't work out so as to match X-speaking patients with X-speaking medical staff. And of course when people travel or have an emergency or need to see a specialist they aren't in a position to go to a particular clinic that serves their ethnic group.

The result is that in many cases the children of immigrants interpret for them. There are several problems with this. One is that they may not have a good knowledge of medical terminology and will misunderstand or make mistakes. A second is that they may not be good interpreters. Just speaking two languages doesn't mean you will do a good job of interpreting. A third problem is that people often do not want to talk about their medical problems in front of their friends or relatives, especially children. They may be embarassed or they may not want to burden them with their problems. A fourth problem is that the friend or relative may have a vested interest and, consciously or unconsciously, slant the interpretation. They may downplay the patient's symptoms or exagerate them, depending on their attitude toward the patient (e.g. "Mom is such a hypochondriac!"), and they may distort the doctor's instructions if they don't like them (e.g. because they find them burdensome or they have joined a sect that believes in faith healing or herbal medicine or whatever). A fifth problem is that, if the interpreter is a child, having the child interpret for the parent can create a problematic inversion of parent-child relations that makes the patient feel helpless. Finally, children often feel stressed by this kind of interpreting and may even decide that they are responsible for the adult's illness.

For all these reasons, providing trained medical interpreters is highly desirable. One approach in use in the US is to contract with a telephone service. That way a wide range of languages is available. A device like this won't entirely replace a good interpreter since it is limited to a certain set of questions and responses and some patients, especially elderly ones, will have difficulty communicating with a machine, but assuming that it is well done, it will be quite useful.

Re:Application? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833993)

I'm guessing it'll be useful seeing as how Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world.
It's not too likely that the hospital is going to have doctors on hand that will speak X number of languages at any given time.

Go Canada!

Application: unmet American health needs (1)

Simonetta (207550) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834380)

This device will become very useful as hundreds of thousands of Americans go abroad to get health care needs met. The Medical Industry in the USA is in meltdown from greed and stupidity. Millions of people have no health care access at all and tens of millions of working-people (like you and me) have only limited access to medicial care.

    To meet their needs for major surgery and so forth, they will be going to other countries with more rational health care services. Some doctors in these places will be bilingual, but many of them and most of the support staff will not be.

    So yes, this machine will be very useful for Americans. Especially the large group of people who were born between 1945 and 1965 who will be at their greatest medical need stage at the same time that the American medical industry collapses.

Re:Application? (1)

m0nstr42 (914269) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834497)

I don't understand where this would be useful. In a clinic dealing with patients who don't speak English as a first language, yes, but at the practice I go to they already have Chinese/English speaking doctors, as well as several others who are multilingual, which works fine.

Many hospitals, especially in larger cities, already have paid medical translators on hand - so the need for this type of service is pre-established.

Furthermore, human translators are highly expensive (salary, training, benefits, etc), so only high-budget hospitals and clinics have them. If you introduce a machine that, in principle, isn't a ton more expensive than a high-end PC, then you make translation services a whole lot more affordable for a whole lot more establishments. Even if the machines costs $40k, that more than pays for a human interpreter over the course of a year or two.

Re:Application? (1)

FishinDave (802556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14841140)

It's application will be in outsourced customer service, of which medicine is only a subset. Buy stock now!

If the patient is deaf.... (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832216)

Would it not be easier to translate the spoken words into text?

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832233)

I was thinking the same thing, but remember not everyone who is deaf will know how to read and write.

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

Mahou (873114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832252)

are there really people who know american sign language but don't know how to read english? (ps-this is an actual question as i have no idea about that kind of stuff)

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832282)

I can't say I know anyone who is like that, but ASL is a bit of a world standard, so if you're French and deaf, you still might learn ASL and not read and write English. French is a language in the translator so they'd be in luck if the person is literate, but what about people who aren't? In theory it's possible, and such a case was brought up on a Canadian crime drama called This is Wonderland where a person in a courtroom could only sign some type of language but indicated he couldn't read.

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

psycho chic (958251) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832309)

while ASL is a world standard, there are many forms of it. In fact, even canada and the usa use different forms of ASL. If i am correct, the base language is still the same, so it IS possible for a chinese person who uses ASL to understand the canadian form. Again though, its another hurdle. and what about people who only know ESL? yes, its fading out, but it is much easier to find an actual person to translate from ASL rather then ESL. Maybe our little machine should do that.

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832411)

Yes and no. I doubt it would have a big effect on the types of sentences here since they'd probably be short. But more generally, English literacy levels among people born deaf are actually pretty low. ASL constructions are entirely different from English (in fact, ALS supposedly has more gramattical structures in common with French than English, though there are still probably more differences than similarities) and there definitely isn't a one-to-one correspondence of words.

(This is what we were taught in an ASL course, and I have no idea how well it agrees with reality.)

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

c_forq (924234) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832532)

Yes there are. It used to be a lot more common when the deaf and the mute were not well accommodated in American education systems, but I would put money that there are still a good number. Especially in other countries. ASL is used in many places besides North America, such as the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong, Haiti, The Ivory Coast, Ghana, Congo, Kenya, Madagascar, and Zimbabwe

Re:If the patient is deaf.... (2, Insightful)

ultramk (470198) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832290)

Sadly, there is a high degree of functional illiteracy among those people who are born deaf in this country. From what I understand, a lot of the problem is that American Sign Language is not based on English, so the grammatical structures are completely different.

Seems sad to me, though. Imagine being that completely locked out of our culture's discourse... I can imagine being deaf, and I can imagine being illiterate, but I can not imagine being both at the same time.


Re:If the patient is deaf.... (1)

mla_anderson (578539) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832643)

The reason for the illiteracy has mostly to do with the fact that ASL is not English with signs (that would be Signed Exact English SEE) but is in fact a completely distinct language with it's own grammatical structure. For a deaf person to sign ASL and read English is like me speaking and thinking in English and reading in Hindi (or other language where the grammatical structure is significantly different from English).

The more amazing thing is so many deaf people are so capably bi-lingual.

Rx/Tx (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832220)

When do we get the machine that can read a doctor's handwriting?

Whaaat (1)

Kelz (611260) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832243)

No WoW speak? Its the only language some idiots know! U GOT PWNED HEALZ INC

Sure that's impressive but so is .... (1)

i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832246)

this translator []

Your dog wants a cure for cancer now.

Re:Sure that's impressive but so is .... (1)

msbsod (574856) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832331)

Sure, no dog should be without a CAT [] (Computer-assisted translation)!

They got lucky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832247)

Turns out the patient's hovercraft was full of eels.

Re:They got lucky (1)

spun (1352) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832261)

Damn you AC, you beat me to the joke!

Understanding doesn't mean Comprehension (1)

Dukeofshadows (607689) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832254)

Just because a patient can understand your words doesn't mean that they know what you're asking about. Some people speak English and still manage to get something very different out of a conversation than what was said, and if the patient is simply answering questions to please the doctor then it doesn't matter what language it's in. Cultural competency is as important as language, maybe more, and we've all seen what happens when literal translations go awry (the Clairol "mist stick" comes to mind). And given that many of the patient contact notes are in fact legal documents, I'd rather use human translators that I know can get the job done.

No Really... (1)

slagheap (734182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832274)

Where are all the moderators?

Re:No Really... (2, Funny)

raider_red (156642) | more than 8 years ago | (#14835528)

Moderation has been outsourced, so we're waiting for the geek-speak to Hindi and Chinese translations to go through.

But... (1)

connah0047 (850585) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832279)

Yeah, but can it fix their bed-snide manner?

The real question.. (1)

postmanpat78 (513979) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832313)

If the patient only speaks Mandarin and the doctor only speaks english, what translates the patients response? This system is not useful if the response cannot be understood. Perhaps all the questions are just yes/no answers...

American version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832319)

Only needs to handle "Do you have any insurance?" and a positve response

Reminds me ... (2, Informative)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832320)

This reminds me a little of a system that I saw, when I was working in the E.D. in a local hospital a while back.

They had a live translation service that worked through a "red phone" (it wasn't really red, but it was a dedicated, pick-up-to-talk phone) that connected to a bank of live translators. You picked up the phone and entered codes for what languages you wanted it to translate to and from, say English to Catalan, and it would route you to an operator that could do that translation. Then the patient picked up the other handset, or you put it on speaker, and away you went. I assume the hospital got a fat bill at the end of the month for every use. I always thought this was a pretty slick system, because the translators could be anywhere. I don't know how they handled it in reality, but I had visions of operators sitting around their kitchens or in small callcenters worldwide, with the computer routing them calls when ones in languages whenever they were available.

Granted, I never saw anyone actually use this system, so I can't vouch for it in practice. But conceptually it struck me as being pretty cool.

The point that TFA makes about colloquialisms is right on, however. Even a human translator doesn't take this all out. A good story is one I heard from an EMT friend of mine. He got called to the scene of an older person who had lost consciousness and was unresponsive. When there, he tried to get a history from the wife: she kept saying "He fell out! He just fell out!" And nobody had any idea what she meant. Fell out of where? Of a window? Of a car? Of his chair? Was there a possible head injury? The possibilities were endless.

Turns out, "falling out" is apparently a direct translation of the Quebecois term for "passing out" or "fainting." The lady was just stating the obvious -- the guy had passed out. To the woman, it made perfect sense, but to the EMTs, it didn't. And this was with two people, in person, speaking the same language, with one native speaker and one very competent second-language speaker. Even with human translators, unless you selected them not only for languages, but also for dialect and regionalisms, I could see this being a big problem. (And potentially a lot more serious than my example.) With a machine, the number of problems must skyrocket.

That said, I still think it's a neat development, and I'm sure it'll be an asset for hospitals in areas where the staff can't keep up with the diverse and ever-changing language requirements of their patients.

Re:Reminds me ... (1)

alphafoo (319930) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832494)

Reminds me a lot of a handheld system currently in limited use with the military called the Phrasealator, developed by Applied Data Systems. It's got a bunch of various language packs available for it, and the gist of it is that you speak a question into it (e.g, "Have you seen insurgents nearby?") and after a little A/D conversion and fuzzy matching, would find a corresponding phrase in the target language. The handheld then plays a voice recording of that phrase.

The device is geared for yes/no questions, and communicating unambiguous tasks (e.g., "Please point on this map as to where they are now"), but of course doesn't parse responses. But if you can potentially get a job done with someone via yes/no phrases, this sort of thing would be better than the existing alternative, which looks a lot like people playing Pictionary.

I asked one veteran E.R. doc about the language situation in hospitals and he said it just wasn't that big a deal because often times the whole family would show up in the E.R., and someone in the bunch would be the terp. But that's just one data point.


Re:Reminds me ... (1)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833841)

"Have you seen insurgents nearby?"

(A/D conversion and fuzzy matching)


Family interpretting (1)

SeanDuggan (732224) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834196)

I asked one veteran E.R. doc about the language situation in hospitals and he said it just wasn't that big a deal because often times the whole family would show up in the E.R., and someone in the bunch would be the terp. But that's just one data point.
When I was taking ASL courses, our teacher shared her own story about that. Due to vagaraies of genetics and the like, both she and her grandmother were deaf and had therefore learned sign language. The rest of the family, for whatever reason, had not. The grandmother was in the hospital, being treated, and they found that her condition was much more serious than they had taught. And so our teacher, at the age of 11, got to tell her grandmother that she was going to die. *shiver* Heck of a thing to do to a kid.

Re:Reminds me ... (1)

CrazedWalrus (901897) | more than 8 years ago | (#14835609)

My wife is from South America, with her mother also living her in the States. When her mother was recently hospitalized, she related an interesting conversation she overheard between a doctor and another Hispanic patient.

Apparently, the doctor wanted the patient to scootch her butt over a little on the bed. Because of the large number of Columbians working at the hospital, he'd picked up some Spanish, and was trying it out.

Unfortunately, he didn't realize just *what kind* of language he'd picked up, and wound up telling her to "Move your ass!"

Re:Reminds me ... (1)

sunwukong (412560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832599)

My extended family includes 3 seniors ranging from 64 to 93 years old, all with very rudimentary (if any) English skills. The most convenient thing that we have done when they've had to be in emergency or when admitted is to make a little cheat sheet of common phrases and questions.

"I am thirsty."
"I want to phone home."
"My ____ hurts."

I've often thought about a software alternative but it always seems too inconvenient and a barrier to those who aren't too technical in the first place.

Usually this sheet gets customized each visit due to the nature of the illness, the types of treatment, etc.

Since this only takes a few minutes to make up, it seems to be the easiest solution to the language issue.

Re:Reminds me ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832730)

No, the french woman was using an incorrect phase, so don't think she was that competent. Speaking in literal translations does not make you functionally bilingual.

Sorry, but I have a problem the french, and their language. Read This [] and you'll start to understand the double standard that exists in Canada.

Re:Reminds me ... (1)

MmmDee (800731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833086)

A few years ago when I practiced in Minnesota, the hospital had a contract with AT&T. You simply dialed an 800 number, mentioned which language you needed, and in about 30 seconds, you had someone medically knowledgeable on the speakerphone fluent in English and the desired language. Spanish was the most common, but Somali, Chinese and occasionally other languages were needed. Didn't matter what time of day or night. I don't see a computer changing that any time soon. It was wonderful, but expensive too, I'm sure.

Re:Reminds me ... (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833485)

The point that TFA makes about colloquialisms is right on, however. Even a human translator doesn't take this all out.

If you want another example, I have one from Norway/Sweden. We speak a rather similar language, and many Swedish nurses come to work in Norway. One word that has created some interesting fuck-ups is "glasögon" - "glassøye" (swedish and norwegian respectively). In english, eyeglasses vs glass eye. Miiiiiinor difference.

Do we have patois to english? (1)

fdiskit (958459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14835796)

Yah, down here in the rural South of the USA, the phrase is "done fell out". It is so commonly accepted that it is an unoffical radio code (DFO). We also have cases where grandma gets "the vapors" - meaning anything from "she fainted" to "she has bad gas" to "she's got gas gangrene in her diabetic feet".

And don't get me started on "high blood". High blood WHAT? Pressure, sugar, alcohol, ARRRGGH . . .

Rural North Florida Paramedic (volunteer)
Geekery unfortunately pays the bills so much better

Article Summary Translated to French (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832322)

saskboy écrit des "traductions des questions médicales posées par des médecins à leurs patients ont été fournis par un nouvel ordinateur conçu canadien appelé MedBridge. "cantonaises, mandarine, Japonais, Portugais, Français, et Russe," sont certaines des langues que le MedBridge peut fonctionner avec. CBC rapporte, "si un patient est sourd, le système peut également traduire en langue américaine de signe à l'aide de la vidéo. Le système de MedBridge est déjà en service aux hôpitaux à New York, à Toronto et à Halifax." Des questions de Pretranslated sont stockées dans l'ordinateur et le docteur choisit de la liste de questions de demander. Ce n'est pas tout à fait un traducteur universel, mais il devrait améliorer la communication de docteur-patient."

and back into English via Spanish, Dutch, Greek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832377)

saskboy it writes the translations of medical interpellations that become from the doctors in his patients, it has been provided from that is arrested computer canadian the call new MedBridge. "cantonaises, French mandarin, Japaneses, Portugeses, and that is Russian, are of course the box of maintainance MedBridge of languages with which it works. CBC is placed in the submission of reports, if one patient is hearing impaired, can the system also in in the American language of sample that uses the video translates. The system MedBridge is already in the service in the hospitals in the New York, Toronto and Halifax. The interpellations Pretranslated are stored in in the computer and the doctor choose the enumeration of interpellations in order to it asks. He is not completely no world translator, but that the communication of need the improvement.

Why not go all the way... (1)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832330)

...and cut the doctor out of the loop altogether?

What happened to those expert systems that seemed so promising in the 70s and 80s? I don't believe a doctor can weigh up the range of symptoms that a patient might have, and the even bigger range of symptoms that a patient doesn't have, more reliably than a machine, in order to make an assessment of the probability of the patient having any particular disease. MYCIN [] is one that comes to mind but there were others. I was under the impression that they had performed better than doctors in tests.

Re:Why not go all the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832583)

I'm no doctor but I know that in IT diagnosing symptoms is by far easier than trying to get the symptoms out of a patient (or a user, and let's face it they're never patient)... I suspect the same is true in medicine and machines just can't match doctors in geting blood from the proverbian stone-walling patient...

Apologies for the puns...

Re:Why not go all the way... (1)

Expert Determination (950523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834709)

But...many (if not most) patients are more likely to open up to a machine than a person. It's easier to mention those embarassing symptoms, or symptoms that seem too trivial to bother someone's time with and so on. I'm surprised that these expert systems aren't available on web sites (with disclaimers).

legal liabilities... (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834381)

...stopped them.
who do you sue if an expert system advises something that has an adverse event?

Re:Why not go all the way... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14836412)

A heart attack can present as a toothache. A typical expert system would have the patient visit a dentist while a semi-competent doctor would use his intuition to derrive the correct diagnosis very quickly. Most problems in real life don't present as textbook scenarios. A doctor who's seen 50.000 patients in an emergency setting with a variety of problems, ranging from the mundane to life threatening, is someone I'd visit over any database collection of textbook symptoms.

Yes.. but 'doctor' friendly is it? (1)

TechSnack (957035) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832343)

Doctors try to spend as little time as possible in a patient's room... especially the PCPs. I wonder how well the interface is designed for a doctor to 'choose' from a list of questions.. Probably the doctor can have a list of pre-prepared set of questions that deals with a particular problem / disease... Although this can only work for patients with 'simple' problems... A doctor who can speak the native tongue is still the best, though..

Deaf people can't read? (1)

Deathanatos (811514) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832355)

From the article:
which also allows the patients to see the words on the screen in their own language.
If a patient is deaf, the system can also translate into American Sign Language using video.

What's the point of video sign language? You could just read the words off the screen... seems a trifle pointless.

And does this system just show text, or can it actually pronounce it? (This could be an issue in countries where the literacy rate isn't too high, if say US doctors are doing disaster relief.)

Re:Deaf people can't read? (1)

Penguinoflight (517245) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832485)

The problem is ASL is it's own language. I know what you're thinking: "you're just saying that so deaf people will feel comfortable"; In fact whoever worked to create/spread ASL wasn't thinking about cultural effects. ASL uses a dictionary (lexicon) that is almost identical to English, but it's grammar patterns are all mixed up. So, even if a deaf person developed the ability to read english words, they would still have significant trouble understanding English sentences.

Honestly I dont think this system is a good idea. In situations that are crucial enough to require a translator, the solution provided by this software will not be reliable enough.

Re:Deaf people can't read? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834118)

This could be an issue in countries where the literacy rate isn't too high, if say US doctors are doing disaster relief.
And that's why America's a great country - both of those are available without even travelling abroad.

But... (1)

Bananatree3 (872975) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832367)

CAN it convert medical mumbo-jumbo into english?

other techniques (1)

pvt_medic (715692) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832417)

While I think this is very useful, I think that there are quite a few simplier solutions out there. I have for many years kept many print outs in different languages of common medical questions and terms to work with patients. The other part is that having someone speak the language is still much more effective, yes there are plenty of languages that present at a hospital that it is not feesible to have a translator for, but at the same time someone that knows their language might also have a better understanding of their culture and their perceptions of medicine.

Re:other techniques (1)

patio11 (857072) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832684)

Thats the system thats mostly used here in Japan. We've got some municipal resources for an emergency translator for medical emergencies (the commonly needed ones are Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, and English, in something approaching that order... unfortunately, to my knowledge we don't have anyone qualified to actually speak Chinese or Korean in the municipal government). For routine care we've got these lovely cards which are produced by the prefecture. It looks like a fold out map which has those four languages printed on it with four-color illustrations (literacy among our foreign workers is not quite 100%). One side is for the patient, one side for the doctor. So the doctor gets questions like "What part hurts?" and then there is a handy labeled diagram of the human body with easy-to-recognize pictures and translations in four languages. "What is your complaint? Fever, pregnancy, part of body hurts (pick one from picture #2), feeling ill, broken (pick one from picture #2), etc."

They've also got cards for restauraunts and hotels, in the rare event that someone from abroad decides to visit Oogaki, Gifu without bringing their own translator (Americans: we're the rough equivalent of a mid-sized city in Kansas. Rest of world: we're the rough equivalent of a mid-sized city in Kansas. You don't just decide to hop on a plane and come over in most cases :) )

Better then nothing (1)

maggard (5579) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832496)

I used to work for a large Boston Mass. teaching hospital complex, which had a shared translators department. Getting to know a few of them their requirements were quite impressive. They had to be familiar with anatomy, diagnostic procedures, hospital procedures, & pharmaceuticals in both English and their supported language(s).

I've also been an Anglophone living in rural Quebec using local medical facilities, where the medical staff was not at all comfortable working in English (and please not the old canard they were doing it for effect, I never ran into that in eight years. Jerks screeching "English!" get ignored, not the rest of us.)

Point is that there is a huge need for medical translation, not just in major urban hospitals but also in rural clinics. And not just from English to Ubbadubba but also in reverse.

I can't imagine technology being able to replace the nuances of a trained translator and caregivers working together, in person, with a patient and families, picking up nuances and culturally idiomatic body language. However this is better then requiring care and being unable to communicate at all, or trying to pantomime medical issues.

For timers & places where there isn't a translator avialable something like this is fantastic. Indeed I'd love to see it extended with graphics, offering short animated video clips describing common issues & procedures for patients unfamilier with local medical practices.

Metropolitan Cities (1)

copdk4 (712016) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832722)

I can clearly see the benefit of such device for clinicians who practice in metropolitan areas (like NYC). My university hospital is situated in a highly hispanic concentrated area (Washington Heights) and there is always a requirement for a spanish speaking nurse on the floor. The university also gives free language tutorials for medical students. Hell I have seen several physicians putting language skills on top of their resume to get a job the our hospital.

I havent RTFA, but the last I heard (a week ago frm my machine learning prof) that speech recognition systems are only 50% good and it seems to me that such a device in a clinical setting can prove disastrous if it makes some mistakes !

Imagine some scenarios
Patient says: I feel blah blah blah... (of course in some different language)
Doctor hears: I feel like having sex with you

Patient says: No..blah no.. no.. blah
Doctor hears: aah yES.. YES.. right there.. YES aah YES..

Re:Metropolitan Cities (1)

saskboy (600063) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834640)

If you'd read the FSummary you'd see that it doesn't guess it has pretranslated selections. So the doctor picks the word for PENIS SORE from his list, and the computer knows the best way to phrase PENIS SORE in Cantonese or whatever. It takes out the babelfish aspect errors in most cases except where dialects come in.

"Remove your gitch and show me your trouser trout" might not be in the list for the doctor to choose though.

What good is this? (1)

systemofadown (885733) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832733)

Ok, I can understand the use for this. But, how is he doctor going to get a reply to the question? I mean if doctor speaks langauge A and patient language B, how is the patient going to rpely in a way the doctor can understand?

medicine has a different vocabulary (1)

frankmu (68782) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832867)

i know i run in to this occasionally. i speak conversational Japanese, but i grew up primarily in the US, and have my medical degree in the US. i can talk about the weather without a problem, but if i try to describe anatomy or a medical condition, i'm stuck. actually, part of my job as a physician for regular english speakers is to translate Medical terms to everyday english. i find that that can clear up alot of anxiety for everyone.

a medical translater must not only translate the exact word, but must sometimes simplify the words so that the average person will understand them.

Ever been to a hospital overseas? (1)

ChePibe (882378) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832895)

I find it difficult to believe some of the comments here...

How many people here have actually been to a hospital overseas, where the odds of someone speaking your language well enough for you to understand are quite slim, or perhaps in a country where your mastery of the language is questionable at best? I have, and let me tell you - it's no fun. The usual jumpiness that accompanies any trip to the hospital is magnified about 10 fold. I would have loved to have access to a device like this one. It's not perfect, but it really would've put my mind at ease, which would have helped the whole process move along more smoothly.

I've seen this before- (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832914)

It's gold, says "Oh dear, oh dear" a lot, and is a model Dr-C3PO.

why (1)

rupert0 (885882) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833383)

Why don't we all just learn esperanto ? :-P

Maritime flag signals: Mike Kilo Foxtrot (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833649)

Since many years there are the Maritime Flag signals, usualy a sequence starting with an 'M' (Mike) denotes a Medical condition.

Mike Kilo Foxtrot is one that comes to mind...

The link (1)

Teun (17872) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833705)

Oh yeah, the link:

MKF []

Possible translation issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833664)

Amputate his left leg.
I said left !
I said leg! !

Payment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833688)

Dr.: And the bill comes out to.....

Transl: All your base...

learning the language (1)

x_codingmonkey_x (839141) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833691)

I don't want to be a troll but living in Toronto I find it frustrating to have people around me who can barely speak English and who have already been in this country for 5+ years. One of my friends parents came to Canada from China 16 or so years ago and still find it hard to speak English. I find that a lot of people come to Canada, settle into a community that has people speaking their native language, and never really bother to learn English. I think people should be encouraged to learn and speak English more rather than less.

However, I can see this being useful for newly landed immigrants or people visiting the country.

Re:learning the language (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833792)

I trust that you will also learn the language of any country you spend any time in.

(P.S. I am Canadian also, living in Toronto also. Grew up and born in English Canada. However, I also speak French and some Japanese, having lived in Quebec and Japan.)

Re:learning the language (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834160)

I trust that you will also learn the language of any country you spend any time in.
Wow. This from a person who doesn't understand the difference between living in a country for over 5 years (16 in one case) as the grandparent said and passing a long weekend.

Actual translators already exist (1)

Sir Holo (531007) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833783)

That sounds like just a point-and-click set of canned questions and multiple choice responses. There are better things.

Speech-to-speech translators and universal dictionaries are getting pretty good these days. These guys [] make one.

halifax (1)

halifaxgeek (954433) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833825)

I live in Halifax, we're a fairly large tourist city, and I can definately see where this helps for us. We can't always guarantee that we have medical staff that can speak most languages known to man, so a computer program may offer some insight into diagnosos of the patient.

Yeah, this'll work (1)

bl00d6789 (714958) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833990)

Babelfish did this one entirely for me: Original: "Did you say you wanted to have your kidney removed?" Translated to Chinese (and back): "You said you thought the edible your kidney is removen?"

Does it say "Please state the nature ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14833995)

of the medical emergency"?

There had to be SOME Star Trek fans working on the project somewhere.

-- ac at work

Better....but not perfect. (1)

Asklepius M.D. (877835) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834346)

Looks like a nice little toy. It'll certainly help smaller hospitals and clinics where they may not have a multilingual staff. Using pre-selected sentences allows for a small amount of "cultural competency" in the translation since I doubt each translation is 100% literal. It's still no substitute for a multilingual and culturally aware medical staff, however. For those who are curious about this cultural competency "The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down", by Anne Fadiman to see how more than just language barriers can separate doctors and patients.

gotta be better than babelfish ... (1)

constantnormal (512494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834399)

... and other unrestricted automated translators.

Restricting the syntax to the domain of medical terms makes the job a whole lot easier, and would eliminate oodles of ambiguities.

already been done (1)

bmalnad (808193) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834427)

I helped design a similar web based system a couple of years ago. See it at [] .

Health Insurance... No Wonder! (1)

WolfZombie (918513) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834526)

You know, I can see instances where a machine like this could be useful. Not as useful as a translator on staff, or a translation service that someone else mentioned in a previous post.

It is no wonder though, with all the technology being pushed into the medical field, how expensive health insurance has gotten. New technology like this sounds great, but is never around long enough to turn a profit, and is outdated within a week. It is one of those cases where there may be an advantage to technological growth slowing down. Leave something for our kids and our kids kids to be innovative about, not just picking up the mess of an infrastructure we are leaving them.

Candadian/American Translator (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 8 years ago | (#14836022)


Like I've said before... (1)

cartel (845256) | more than 8 years ago | (#14836123)

These translators are not going to ever produce translations at quality anywhere human translations until they can properly account for context. The best way to do this as I see it is through knowledge representation via a neural network (i.e., adaptive resonance theory).

Languages... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14836490)

> "Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, Portuguese, French, and Russian," are some of the languages the MedBridge can work with

Wow...they actually forgot english?

what did you say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14847426)

Any Doctor that buys this obviously doesn't care about the answer?! er...babel fish and plenty of exercise.
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