MediBabble Attacks Language Barriers the Doctor’s Office

A mobile app developed by a pair of former UCSF medical students could help doctors collect more accurate medical histories from patients, even if they don’t speak the same language. Called MediBabble, the free, donation-supported iPhone app lets doctors play common medical questions aloud in five languages: Cantonese, Haitian Creole, Mandaran, Russian, and Spanish. Patients can respond via yes/no answers, gestures, or scrolling on the device. Alex Blau, who began developin the app three years ago with fellow medical student Brad Cohn, says the app can help doctors get through the crucial medical history portion of a patient encounter faster and more accurately despite language barriers. “Ninety percent of diagnoses come from the patient’s self-reported medical history, so the ability to communicate is critical,” Blau says in a feature posted this week at UCSF’s website. “Time is not an asset doctors or patients have. You need that information when you need it,”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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