Language app helps doctors and patients communicate

Image: 123RF/Anastasia Usenko .

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Aweza have collaborated to develop a unique mobile application to bridge communication barriers between healthcare providers and patients. 

Aweza is an international award-winning tech-based initiative that strives to inspire and empower South Africans to overcome language barriers across all sectors of society.

The mobile application, AwezaMed COVID-19, features localised speech technology such as speech recognition, machine translation, and text-to-speech developed by the CSIR and works on any Android smartphone.

It enables healthcare providers to access a phrase in English, translate it into any South African official language, and play the phrase in the selected language.

Originally developed with content pertaining to maternal healthcare and obstetrics, the application has been enhanced with COVID-19-related content and is available for download from the Play Store. There is no cost for users.

“By bridging the communication barrier, the trust relationship between the healthcare provider and patient can be improved. In addition, the patient’s experience and the healthcare provider-patient confidentiality can be improved, and lives can possibly be saved,” says Dr Karen Calteaux, CSIR Digital Audio-Visual Technologies Research Group Leader.

The content of the application was developed in collaboration with health experts and is aimed at supporting healthcare workers to communicate with patients at healthcare facilities, especially during COVID-19-related screening.

“AwezaMed emanated from a project funded by the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, that strives to bridge language barriers between healthcare practitioners and patients in clinics. A decision was taken to develop a version to address language barriers experienced by medical professionals working with COVID-19 patients,” Dr Calteaux says.

The CSIR is an entity under the Department of Science and Innovation.

-This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk'uzenzele.