Machine translation (MT) accuracy has improved significantly in recent years. In fact, a 2019 study on patient instructions found that 92% of sentences were accurately translated into Spanish, while 81% translated into Chinese were. As translation and interpreting apps continue to refine their capabilities, they pose an important question: will they replace human medical interpreters?
The short answer is no. While MT can produce simple instructions or definitions, it still lacks the ability to determine context. Natural languages are nuanced, and cultural differences even among speakers of the same language can change the meaning of words or phrases. Yet interpreting apps still offer several benefits for patients, healthcare professionals, and the interpreters themselves. But before we dive into the benefits, let’s take a look at a few types of medical apps on the market today.
Types of Medical Interpreting Apps
Not all medical interpreting apps serve the same function. Speech-to-text or text-to-text apps can produce a basic translation of a conversation between patients and health professionals. Others are pre-programed with words and phrases to help a patient understand a specific treatment or medical procedure. Another type includes visual icons to help patients answer questions or make requests by pressing a button.
The Benefits of Medical Interpreting Apps
Each type of app works to help breakdown communication barriers between patients and medical staff. They can also:
- Reduce the cost of medical interpretation and the wait time associated with interpreting. Healthcare professionals can collect basic information from patients before they connect with an interpreter. This also allows providers to give interpreters some background before they start a session.
- Improve the accuracy of patient forms. Medical interpreters usually aren’t the ones filling out patient forms, which can lead to staff errors. When patients can see what was recorded with a speech-to-text app, they can immediately correct an error. This improves insurance reimbursement, billing, and healthcare management.
- Help healthcare professionals determine if patients understand their questions. Medical apps give healthcare professionals a written record of the conversation, which helps them determine if both the patient and interpreter understood them. This opportunity to clarify any misunderstanding can improve health outcomes and reduce the need for readmission.
As you can see, instead of replacing medical interpreters, medical apps actually serve as a tool to improve accuracy and patient experiences.
Medical Interpreters and Boostlingo
Despite the advance in machine translation, medical interpreters will continue to play a vital role in patient care. Fortunately, Boostlingo’s interpreting platform makes it easy to connect with interpreters who speak over 200 languages. You can connect in minutes using our over-the-phone (OPI) or video remove (VRI) options or schedule an onsite interpreter for upcoming appointments. Best of all, it’s easy to use. All you need is a computer or tablet, an internet connection, and a web cam for video calls.
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