Will Google Translate Replace Healthcare-certified Interpreters?

With wearables now on the market for language interpretation, like the Pilot earpiece, there’s an ongoing excitement for artificial intelligence to remove the need for human interpreters. A slick marketing video shows a language barrier interaction flawlessly facilitated with immediate phrase assistance and translation. There are smiles and amazement at this new-found, conversational technology.

Added anticipation for interpreting accuracy came from an updated 2016 Google Translate capability that uses a neural machine translation engine for translating whole sentences at a time rather than one word at a time. The demand for language assistance is massive as Google claims to translate 100 billion words per day.


Photo by VanveenJF on Unsplash

In recent years, much attention has been paid to Google Translate’s support of medical phrases between doctors and patients. What was once limited usefulness in the healthcare setting now has led to claims of 90%-plus translation accuracy according to a 2019 report published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Technology-augmented translation in casual conversations is one thing, but there’s more at stake when bridging the language barrier for what can be life or death situations.


Photo by Ali Yahya on Unsplash

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Smartphones & Preparing for Medical Emergencies while Traveling Abroad

While none of us ever plan to have a medical emergency, it’s too late to plan for one once it happens, especially when traveling abroad.

Most of us know someone with a story to tell. It just might be you. There are enough challenges to obtaining medical care while overseas without even talking about the problem of a language barrier. Fact: if you are unprepared to deal with the language barrier when your medical emergency comes, it can change your crisis into a complete disaster.

How can one be prepared and plan ahead? Below, our advisor Dr. DeLange explains from personal experience…

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Avoiding Medical Emergencies During Travel – Tips from an ER Doctor


Medical emergencies during travel are the worst kinds of surprises to have.

Some are nuisances and some are deadly. How does one prepare for the worst? Recent writings about why tourists end up in the ER list a few of the culprits: stings from animals in the sea, the flu, altitude sickness, mosquito-borne illness, and food-borne illness.

For this blog, we interviewed the new member of our medical advisory board, Tyler DeLange, MD.

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Earthquakes and Foreign Tourists

Yesterday, a major earthquake hit Japan.


Airports shut down and bullet train service was interrupted. Tourists in Japan answered incessant Facebook inquiries. Although no deaths were reported, each earthquake in the island nation is stark reminder of the destructive possibility. The 2011 earthquake and deadly tsunami took 18,000 lives.

It’s tough to be prepared for a surprise natural disaster, but Japan’s authorities are leading the way.

In 2015, Japan attracted 20 million international tourists. Officials from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport say that by the time of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the total number of foreign visitors will increase dramatically.

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When an App Saves a Life



A man in Seattle is lucky to be alive.


Last month, Stephen DeMont was knocked over by a heart attack. His story made the news.


Bystanders gathered around. Someone called 9-1-1. The county dispatcher receiving the call used an app called PulsePoint to send out an alert. All those with the app in proximity to the emergency were notified. One nurse, just getting off duty at a nearby hospital, responded to the alert on her smartphone. She showed up and also began helping with CPR.

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Why the Name “1st Minute”?

There’s a lot that goes into the name of an App.

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In our case, the nature of the problem being solved – overcoming the language barrier – requires urgency, especially in a medical emergency.

When first responders (paramedics, police, flight attendants) respond to a call, every second counts. Now imagine what happens when the patient only speaks a different language. Guessing what’s wrong, waiting for an interpreter, or just getting them to an emergency room, aren’t always the best options. These can mean the difference between life and death.

Receiving language help in the first minute is ideal. And that is where the power of mobile technology comes into play. So, we’ve designed the user experience to match that timeframe. This way responder and patient can interface with the App and communicate with each other as quickly as possible.  The fields of mobile health, 9-1-1, and emergency medicine are changing… and our App is part of the solution.

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Language Barriers and In-flight Medical Emergencies

Have you ever experienced a medical emergency while on an airplane, or observed the call for doctors during a flight?


Earlier this year, Paul, a 32 year-old businessman, was on an international flight when a passenger called for assistance.

About 1 in 600 flights involves a reported passenger incident requiring medical help. That translates into 44,000 in-flight medical emergencies worldwide every year. The actual numbers may be higher since reporting is not mandatory and minor issues are very likely under-reported.

Paul was flying from a U.S. city to an overseas destination. About 30 minutes from takeoff, a man sitting across the aisle from him seemed to be in distress. Something was wrong and it looked to Paul like the man was having difficulty breathing. Flight attendants quickly arrived, made their call for medical help and frantically tried to assist.

This experience, however, was different than others. It involved a language barrier.


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LanguageMAPS partners for FirstNet event


On May 3rd, LanguageMAPS participated in the FirstNet Colorado event with their software partner, Hitech Systems.

Here is their press release.

Led by the FirstNet Coordinator in the Governor’s Office of Information Technology, the event featured over 20 companies demonstrating public safety technologies which ranged from network solutions to mobile applications. 200 Emergency communications officials and first responder leaders attended the event and tested technologies designed to improve communication and coordination that occur during real-life emergency responses.

Below are some guiding principles from a descriptive whitepaper authored by FirstNet Colorado Leader, Ed Mills.

  • “It is imperative that the power of mobile broadband technology be harnessed to help first responders coordinate and communicate.”
  • “… The most important development … will be the power of information technology developed by techies and placed in the hands of responders with a user interface that is simple, yet robust.”
  • “Responders seek …. the ability to collect, analyze, and use data.”
  • “FirstNet needs to hear from local responders who know the communications challenges.”

We appreciate his team’s invitation for us to participate and inform industry leaders about the  mission of the 1st Minute App – “To communicate relevant data from non-English speakers to responders  during emergencies through an easy-to-use and read interface.”

We look forward to participating in upcoming FirstNet training events around the nation.