The language barrier poses a real problem in treating patients who have not mastered the French language. Communication is fundamental in establishing trust and reaching the correct diagnosis. Many years ago, the HUG implemented a program of interpreters to facilitate exchanges during an appointment.
In our cosmopolitan canton, however, the current geopolitical context is amplifying needs even further. 52% of patients are of foreign nationality, of which close to 14% speak no French at all. Emergency departments and the migrant health program office especially are facing more recently-arrived patients than ever who have no language in common with the support staff.
The project is to develop a digital app to allow near-simultaneous translation between support staff and their patients and thus promote clear communication. The result of close collaboration between the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Geneva and the Outpatient Emergency Care Division at the HUG, this innovative system allows foreign-language-speaking patients to make themselves understood, and also to better understand their illness and the treatments they need. It is also suitable for hard-of-hearing patients.
Dr. Hervé Spechbach, Primary Care Division, Department of Community, Primary Care, and Emergency Medicine, Geneva University Hospitals
Professor Pierrette Bouillon, Faculty of Translation and Interpreting, University of Geneva