WATCH | How a language translation app is helping the fight against Covid-19

09 December 2020 - 13:00
By unathi nkanjeni AND Unathi Nkanjeni
The AwezaMed Covid-19 app bridges language barriers in communication between health-care practitioners and patients in SA and is available for download on Android for free. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Andriy Popov The AwezaMed Covid-19 app bridges language barriers in communication between health-care practitioners and patients in SA and is available for download on Android for free. Stock photo.

A third mobile app has been given the green light for use in the battle against Covid-19.

The app AwezaMed Covid-19 bridges language barriers in communication between health care practitioners and patients in SA and is available for download on Android for free.

Here's what you need to know about the new app:

Bridging the language barrier

The app was a collaboration between a local start-up company, Aweza, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). It is originated from a project funded by the sport, arts and culture department.

It was created to support all 11 official languages in SA to help doctors and medical staff communicate easily with Covid-19 patients in their own languages.

The app enables health-care providers to access a phrase in English, translate it into any official language, and play the phrase in the selected language.

Accurate diagnoses and improved patient experience

SowetanLIVE reported the content of the application was developed in collaboration with health experts and is aimed at supporting health-care workers to communicate with patients, especially during Covid-19 screening, to reduce language barriers that can lead to misunderstandings and possible misdiagnosis.

Dr Karen Calteaux, CSIR digital audio-visual technologies research group leader, said the voice-enabled language communication app can save lives.

“By bridging the communication barrier, the trust relationship between the health-care provider and patient can be improved. In addition, the patient’s experience and health-care provider-patient confidentiality can be improved,” said Calteaux.

How does it work?

The AwezaMed Covid-19 app, in its pilot stage, hosts a database of more than 1,800 questions, reassurances, explanations, patient responses and key vocabulary. A team of medical professionals administers the database.

The app uses phrases collected during consultations with health care professionals and text-to-speech synthesis.

It identifies the language used in speech and converts it to text in real-time. The text is used to translate the source language into the targeted language.

The outcome of the pilot will be used as a basis for improvements to the application and possible roll out to further sites.

How AwezaMed Covid-19 works.
Image: screenshot How AwezaMed Covid-19 works.

Watch the full explainer video below: