St Vincent’s Melbourne launches upgraded Talk to Me interpretation app

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne has launched an upgrade to the Talk to Me language interpretation app first implemented in 2015. St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne cultural inclusion lead Monita Mascitti-Meuter explains how the original app has been improved, and how it is improving the patient and clinical experience.

Imagine this – you’re in your seventies and have recently migrated to Australia. You speak three languages, but it's a little late to learn fluent English. You make a real effort, but due to your physical ailments, you have to enter into nursing care, away from your family and into an environment where no one speaks your language.

Recognising the importance of ethnocentric care is imperative within the healthcare setting, accommodating the linguistic needs of those who are most vulnerable. However, the financial burden of requesting interpreter support over an extended period of time can be demanding. Interpreters are generally called in at vital points of care, but for the hours and days in between, residents are often left feeling lost in a foreign world.

Pivotal to our mission at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne is our care of the poor and vulnerable. We constantly strive for safer, more effective measures, to reduce vulnerability, anxiety, stress, and misunderstanding. In particular, we want to improve cultural safety for our culturally and linguistically diverse clients.

Our community in Victoria is incredibly varied. Over 38 per cent of our patients were born overseas, reflecting 191 countries, 91 languages, and 36 faiths. It’s not surprising then that one in five of our patients require an interpreter.

The first prototype of the Talk to Me app was developed back in 2015 by Datacom Health Solutions, which was iPad compatible and translated sentences in Greek. This included almost 300 phrases with corresponding translation and audio. The prototype was then used in a pilot study to gain feedback from both staff and residents. With further financial support secured in 2016, the app grew and included five more languages and features.

Fast forward to 2021, and AWD Digital came on board thanks to the assistance of the City of Melbourne Connected Communities grant, to create the new iteration of the Talk to Me app as a progressive web application (PWA). Now accessible through all devices, with a health professional and patient user interface, audio component, and large, easy-to-read script, the app could facilitate brief, sentence-based conversations, including 600 phrases translated across Arabic, Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Hakka, Italian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

The PWA is also continually improving: a second City of Melbourne Communities grant enabled the PWA to include images to accompany selected phrases and three more community languages – Dinka, Farsi and Somali – by July 2022.

The Talk to Me app doesn’t replace the need for an interpreter, but is designed to address the gaps for our patients and residents requiring 24/7 care, such as during mealtime, leisure activities, visits and so on. In this setting, it is common in the absence of an interpreter for clinicians to resort to Google Translate, as well as other mobile language applications. However, these tools pose a serious risk as they are not 100 per cent accurate, and struggle with contextual translations.

Talk to Me avoids these issues, as the phrases and closed questions are pre-selected, and subsequent translations and voice overs have been proofread by professional medical interpreters and translators.

Talk to Me can assist in safely extending culturally responsive, safe care to patients and residents, during a pandemic and beyond. You can learn more and check out the app here.

Monita Mascitti-Meuter (pictured) is cultural inclusion lead at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne.

Posted in Australian eHealth

Tags: St Vincent's Health Australia

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