Free app bridges language gap for patients

A free phone app developed in Australia is bridging the language gap between clinicians and patients who communicate in languages other than English.

Metro North Health has endorsed the use of the CALD Assist™ app which developed by Western Health (Victoria) and the CSIRO in collaboration with the CSIRO and nursing staff, allied health clinicians, infectious disease specialists, interpreters and patients.

CALD Assist™ is designed to support staff to ask patients simple questions in low-risk clinical situations.

Metro North Multicultural Language Services Manager Jason Cochrane hopes CALD Assist™ will help clinicians more easily communicate basic information with culturally and linguistically diverse patients in situations when it isn’t possible or practical to have an interpreter present.

He said the app has 10 common languages available including Arabic, Cantonese, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Serbian, Spanish and Vietnamese, in addition to English. Images and videos are also incorporated to make communication simpler.

“The app gives clinicians access to over 250 phrases that are commonly used during basic care interactions. Phrases such as ‘I need to change your dressing’ or ‘I need to take some blood for a test’.,” Jason said.

“The app can be used by anyone who needs a timely answer to questions that about a patient’s comfort such as ‘Are you cold’, ‘Are you hungry” or ‘Do you have pain’.

“The app is not designed to replace the use of an interpreter but instead supports effective communication between health professionals and patients in low-risk clinical situations. A good way of determining if the app is suitable, is if the question only requires a yes or no answer.”

Senior speech pathologist Caitlin Fraser has been using the app at the Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) and has found it extremely beneficial for communicating with patients from CALD backgrounds.

“I recently used the speech pathology specific phrases in the CALD Assist™ app to introduce my role, explain the reason for my visit and to provide simple information about eating and drinking to a patient whose first language was Serbian,” Caitlin said.

“I like that the app includes audio recordings of real people saying the translated phrases, rather than a computer-generated voice. The CALD Assist™ app is a quick and simple tool which enables respectful, patient centred care.”

CALD Assist™ can be downloaded for free from the Apple and Google Play app stores.

Back to top