Web-Based Medical Translator Helps Patients With X-Ray Instructions
(Reuters Health) – A web-based program using artificial intelligence may help X-ray technologists provide instructions to non-English-speaking patients, a U.S. study shows.
Over a two month period, technologists used the program, called RadTranslate, to explain to Spanish-speaking patients why chest radiographs were needed, and then to give a series of instructions, which could include Spanish translations of: “Step up and place your chest close to the board,” “Take a deep breath and hold it for a couple of seconds while we take the image,” and “You can breathe normal.”
The program is freely available online and currently offers translations of patient instructions for chest radiographs, screening mammography, COVID screening, and a falls-risk screen in a variety of languages. The mammography version currently is offered in Portuguese, Mandarin, Italian, Arabic, Korean, and Romanian, for example.
“We used this at one of our sites that is a hot spot for COVID-19 among Spanish-speaking patients,” said study coauthor Dr. Marc Succi, executive director of the MESH Incubator at Massachusetts General Hospital. “The RadTranslate tool has predefined scripts for the technologist to use to take X-rays. The tool uses AI to speak those scripts. All the technologist has to do is play it on RadTranslate.”
The AI provides standardized, human-like spoken exam instructions in the patient’s own language, Dr. Succi said. “We feed the program the translated text from the certified medical interpreter scripts beforehand,” he explained. “So, everything is stored and ready to go ahead of time, since they are standardized instructions. It is not translating anything on the fly.”
The procedure is simple. “You choose the exam first on www.radtranslate.com, then the language, then you’re in business,” Dr. Succi said.
During a 63-day test period following the launch of the RadTranslate site, the app was used for patients who needed Spanish translation at respiratory infection clinics, according to the report in Journal of the American College of Radiology.
A comparison group consisted of all patients who required Spanish translation over a 29-day period prior to implementation of RadTranslate.
During the test period there were 1,267 app uses, with all non-Spanish-speaking technologists voluntarily switching exclusively to the program for their Spanish-speaking patients.
The most used RadTranslate scripts were the general explanation of the exam (30% of the total), followed by instructions to disrobe and remove any jewelry (12%), and instructions to take a deep breath and hold it (9%).
There was no significant difference in the imaging appointment duration, which was a mean of 11 (standard deviation +/-7) minutes for standard-of-care and 12 (+/-3) minutes for RadTranslate, the study found. Variability, however, was significantly lower when RadTranslate was used, the authors note.
The app resulted in reduced variability in exam length with differences of plus or minus two minutes for those using RadTranslate, Dr. Succi said, as compared to the standard of care group, which had exams that lasted as long as 39 minutes.
Any time communication between the healthcare system and patients can be improved, it’s helpful, said Dr. Adam Bernheim, a cardiothoracic radiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, who wasn’t involved in the study.
The new app “may smooth out the process of the entire patient encounter,” Dr. Bernheim said. “It’s almost like if you go to the airport and there are signs in other languages to help prevent confusion and delays due to misunderstandings. This is a nice incremental step forward.”
SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3d5hiZU Journal of the American College of Radiology, online January 30, 2021.
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