App helping nurses break language barrier gets a boost

Besides audio recordings, the i-Comm app also displays images or photographs so that patients can understand the nurses.
Besides audio recordings, the i-Comm app also displays images or photographs so that patients can understand the nurses.PHOTO: CHANGI GENERAL HOSPITAL

It contains more common stock phrases in not just Cantonese but also Hokkien and Malay

Changi General Hospital (CGH) has launched an enhanced version of a mobile app developed by its nurses to help them communicate with patients in Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay.

Called i-Comm, the app was shown yesterday at the International Council of Nurses Congress 2019 held in Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay.

The app can play audio recordings of 500 common stock phrases each for Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay, and can highlight key words to help the nurses pick up a dialect or language.

It also displays images or photographs so that patients can understand the nurses. For example, if a nurse selects the phrase "I will give you an injection on your arm", the app will show an image of an injection being administered.

CGH deputy director of nursing Wong Kok Cheong said: "Most of these phrases are commonly used terms to help identify the needs of our elderly patients or even convey care instructions in a healthcare setting."

In a speech yesterday addressed to about 300 nurses and healthcare professionals from around the world who are in Singapore for the event, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the app has been used in pilot programmes and that patients have shown positive responses.

BETTER CARE FOR THE ELDERLY

Most of these phrases are commonly used terms to help identify the needs of our elderly patients or even convey care instructions in a healthcare setting.

CGH DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NURSING WONG KOK CHEONG

"With the growing complexity of healthcare needs, nurses also play an increasing role in championing efforts to innovate and transform our healthcare system to improve outcomes," he said.

The app was developed by 13 nurses and six other staff who noticed that nurses had difficulty conversing with patients who spoke in Chinese dialects. The team worked with the CGH Office of Innovation to develop the app.

When it was piloted in 2014, it had just 100 stock phrases in Cantonese. Over time, the team added more phrases on clinical procedures and nursing advice, and also added Hokkien and Malay.

While professional translators helped with the project, their translations were edited by the nurses so that the phrases would be more casual and conversational.

There are plans to expand the app further with more phrases specific to the needs of patients undergoing rehabilitation or radiology scans.

Senior staff nurse Sheree Ye said: "Having a comprehensive mobile guide for the common dialects and mother tongue languages will help us to have more meaningful interactions with our patients."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 30, 2019, with the headline 'App helping nurses break language barrier gets a boost'. Print Edition | Subscribe