Enhanced app helps CGH nurses converse with patients in Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay

Called i-COMM, the app was developed by nurses and staff of Changi General Hospital and contains 500 phrases commonly used in the ward in Cantonese, Hokkien and Malay. PHOTO: CHANGI GENERAL HOSPITAL

SINGAPORE - 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 on Saturday (June 29) at the International Council of Nurses (ICN) Congress 2019 held at the 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 could 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.

"Besides creating an elder-friendly environment, the i-COMM app is also designed to facilitate self-learning of the language or dialect."

In a speech on Saturday addressed to the some 300 nurses and healthcare professionals from around the world who are in Singapore for the ICN congress, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said the app has been used in pilot programmes and that patients have showed positive responses.

"With the growing complexity of the 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 CGH nurses and six other staff members who noticed that ward nurses had difficulty communicating 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 related to clinical procedures and common nursing advice given in the wards, and also added Hokkien and Malay.

While professional translators helped with the project, their translations were reviewed and 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.

Ms Sheree Ye, a senior staff nurse at CGH, 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 to build rapport and tend to their needs better."

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