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New iPad app helps non-English speaking patients communicate easier

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New iPad app helps non-English speaking patients communicate easier

​A ground-breaking Western Health iPad app that helps nurses to communicate with non-English speaking patients when an interpreter is not available has received $270,000 in State Government funding.

The Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Assist iPad app – developed in partnership with the CSIRO – uses a series of words, pictures and audio in 10 different languages.

Phrases have been translated into the most commonly spoken languages at Western Health – Arabic, Croatian, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish, Cantonese, Greek, Macedonian, Serbian and Vietnamese.

Communicating with clinicians can be a major challenge for patients if English is not their first language.

With the CALD Assist iPad app, patients are asked basic questions in their own language to help clinicians understand their needs.

Visiting Sunshine Hospital, Minister for Health, Jill Hennessy, announced the $270,000 grant as part the Government's new $10 million Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund.

The funding boost will see the app further developed to be used by healthcare workers across all hospitals.

Western Health speech pathologist Courtney Pocock came up with the idea for the innovative app after dealing with an Italian speaking patient with dementia who refused to swallow.

Using a few key words in Italian, Courtney established that the patient was able to be put on a normal diet and fluids.

"It made me realise that if we could all learn a few basic phrases in some key languages, then we could better engage with our patients," she said.

Western Health serves one of the most culturally diverse communities in Australia, with more than 100 patients a day requiring interpreter services.

The CALD app allows more patients to be seen sooner – without having to wait for an interpreter – especially in instances where they have a very simple request.

Sally Brinkmann, manager of speech pathology and audiology at Western Health, said even elderly patients not familiar with technology are also comfortable using it.

"We have the written words in their language, and also in English, and we also have photographs and video images as well," she said.

Interpreter, Mai Dinh, who works at Sunshine Hospital, says the app is helping patients who would otherwise face long waiting times in non-urgent matters.

"We're really busy in the hospital, especially with Vietnamese language," she said. "This helps us when we're very busy and we can't come to the patient straightaway because the patient can still communicate basic needs to staff."

The CALD Assist iPad app was one of 15 ground-breaking projects that received funding from the Government’s new $10 million Better Care Victoria Innovation Fund. For more information read the Better Care with funding for new health projects story in the Health Victoria magazine.