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New Clinical App to Break Down the Language Barrier

New Clinical App Aims to Improve Communications with Patients with Limited English

A Waitemata District Health Board clinician has developed a new app aimed at improving the way patients with limited English and medical staff communicate with each other.

Janet Liang, an intensive care specialist at North Shore Hospital, has spent the last few years perfecting Listen Please.

“The app has been created out of my own professional observations about how we can better communicate with patients who don’t understand a lot of English, and for them to communicate with us more clearly when they cannot speak English or can’t speak at all.

“Clinical translators do a fantastic job, but it sometimes isn’t practical to have one around all day, or sometimes they cannot be available quickly enough,” says Dr Liang.

“The app allows for clinicians to ask simple questions that would be covered in a standard consultation, such as ‘Are you in any pain?’ or ‘Where do you feel pain?’, while patients can also communicate with medical staff, for example, if they we wanted to speak to family members or to go to the toilet.”

Printed and audio translations are on the app in the five main non-English languages in the Waitemata district – Samoan, Tongan, Cantonese, Korean, and Mandarin.

Dr Liang says unlike other apps like Google Translate, Listen Please also has illustrations and photos which improve the clarity of communication.

“As it is a stand alone app, it does not need internet access to work, and I see it being useful in both hospital and primary care settings.”

Dr Liang won the Health Informatics New Zealand Clinician’s Challenge prize in 2011 with her concept of Listen Please. The Clinicians’ Challenge is an opportunity for clinicians and IT companies to identify and develop information technology solutions that will solve a recurring problem that health professionals face in their day-to-day practice. The Clinicians’ Challenge win allowed her to bring Listen Please to life.

“The Clinician’s Challenge prize, a Waitemata DHB Asian Health Support Services grant and my own personal funds are what made Listen Please creation possible, but app development can be an expensive business. I’m hoping proceeds from downloads will enable me to develop Listen Please further, so it becomes available on iPhones and on Android phones/ digital tablets.

“I also hope to be able to offer even more translated statements, in more languages”.

Listen Please is available to download here.


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