MEDPHRASE is a mobile app that provides an easy and convenient way for users to express and understand health concerns if a language barrier exists. It also acts as a tool that helps users to locate hospitals and pharmacies.
Miscommunication and Language in Healthcare
Language barriers between a patient and a healthcare provider can lead to stress and miscommunication. In the United States, individuals and families who have limited English proficiency are more likely to have poor health status, lack medical insurance, and lack access to preventative and specialty care.
These language barriers not only apply to doctor appointments but also to everyday pharmacy visits. The inability to navigate a pharmacy for remedies to simple health issues, such as a headache or insect sting, can be distressing and lead to the patient to giving up and not seeking out available help.
Current Solutions on the Market
The two main solutions currently available are medical interpreters and translation mobile apps. A medical interpreter is the most accurate solution, however the main issue with this solution is that the medical provider and patient must rely on a third party being present. The benefits of the translation mobile apps are that patients can use them independently and that they are available to both patient and health providers. The main issues I found in my research is that most available apps lack visual representations of the words, which makes them unhelpful for people who have limited reading ability. They also rely on an extensive list of medical vocabulary, including complex medical terms that a patient may not commonly use to describe the issue they are addressing. Having to filter through all of this medical vocabulary can be very confusing for a patient leading to more stress in an already stressful situation.
Based on these observations, I wanted to design a simple solution that patients would be able to access and use independently and that would facilitate communication between patients and health providers.
Looking at the current market solutions, I decided to design a mobile app that combines easy access for the patient and the health provider along with minimizing the confusion brought on by a reliance on extensive medical vocabulary that is an issue with the current apps on the market. By simplifying the navigation of the app, categories, and vocabulary, MEDPHRASE can be used in both a medical provider/patient scenario and a pharmacy scenario. MEDPHRASE features key elements including a language selector, health categories with graphic icons, translations that feature written phonetic pronunciation and audio pronunciation, as well as a pharmacy and hospital locator.
I wanted to address the issue of the extensive medical vocabulary that mobile apps normally include. Focusing on general health terms, such as body parts and symptoms, I developed icons that would be useful in a medical and pharmacy setting. I also thought about how a patient would describe an illness, developing icons for those descriptive words. I decided to eliminate the medical terms that only medical professionals would use and focused on words that patients would use instead. I tested the icons on a range of people of different ages, background, and education levels to develop graphic icons that would easily be understood by a range of people.