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ER kiosks speak Urdu

We may not have two-tier health care, but The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) is plunging into self-service health care. No, it’s not handing out suture kits or defibrillators to patients, but rather installing computer kiosks that will allow a patient to update his or her condition — in eight different languages — while waiting to be seen by the triage nurse or admitted into the ER.

The hospital’s Grace and General campuses — in the L’Amoreaux and Bendale neighbourhoods respectively — will be equipped with at least 10 kiosks in a pilot project of both TSH and Canada Health Infoway, a non-profit health-care IT company. The machines will be installed in the late spring with an estimated test run of one month. They’ll be fine tuned before their expected permanent return in the fall.

“Let’s say you have a sore throat and … that you’re getting hot, you feel like you may have a fever,” posits Louise Le Blanc, patient-care director of TSH’s emergency department. “If the nurse hasn’t arrived in the waiting room area, you can input the information into the computer. It will flag the triage nurse at her desk area where she is taking care of other patients.”

It’s hoped the data entered into the kiosks will improve patient care by speeding the flow of information to a busy medical staff that sees 100,000 emergency cases a year, she adds.

In addition to English, patients may update their information in French, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tamil, Punjabi, Farsi, Hindi and Urdu. The kiosks will ask questions, mostly yes or no, either audibly or onscreen.

“From those languages, [the system] will interpret into English for the triage nurse,” Le Blanc says. “This is not interpretive information that’s through a bystander who will interpret for you. It’s actually your words going to the triage nurse.”

The languages were chosen, she says, because they’re the most common ones seen in her emergency department. Though they do closely match the languages spoken in the surrounding neighbourhoods, some of the most common were not included. Greek and Gujarati are more commonly spoken in area homes than Punjabi and Hindi, for example.

“We picked the most popular ones that we see,” she said. “It doesn’t mean that we’re going to cut it off there. We’re going to see how things go and take it from there.”

National Post
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Page: TO4
Section: Toronto: The City
Byline: Philip Alves
Column: Neighbourhoods: L'Amoreaux/Bendale