University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Bioengineering seniors Elisabeth Martin, Stephanie Slowik, Arjun Reddigari, and Shweta Khorana have received the ASTM Project Grant Award of $500 (USD) for their project, “Language Lifeline Medical Interpretation Application.” This work was carried out as a part of BIOE 435 Senior Design Capstone in collaboration with Carle Illinois College of Medicine students Elizabeth Woodburn and Kitan Akinosho (Class of 2022), and bioengineering Master of Engineering student Nick Souligne. Bioengineering professor Holly Golecki, who is also a teaching assistant professor at Carle Illinoisserved as the faculty advisor.

Pictured from the left: Arjun Reddigari, Nick Souligne, Shweta Khorana, Stephanie Slowik, Elizabeth Woodburn and Elisabeth Martin.

The Medical Interpretation Application is an Android application designed to address the issue of miscommunication in healthcare from language barriers. Currently, patients and healthcare providers may speak different languages which makes exchanging information through healthcare interactions difficult. There are also drawbacks with existing solutions of using in-person interpreters, family members or other translation apps or services due to costs, technical issues, reliability, and availability.

Senior Bioengineering student Elisabeth Martin demonstrates the application during the capstone symposium.
Senior Bioengineering student Elisabeth Martin demonstrates the application during the capstone symposium.

“There are many brief healthcare interactions where patients have to ‘get by’ without an interpreter due to time constraints. We interviewed health care and language professionals to learn more about these situations, and we got some really valuable feedback for our application that helped us shape our prototype,” said Martin. “For example, we included patient comfort phrases like ‘Would you like the door open?’ in our application. These communications can really impact the experience patients with language barriers have in our health care system.”

The team modeled this application after adaptive communication devices used with children with speech or language delays. They created a prototype that works with phrases in Spanish, French, and English. Common phrases are translated in text and audio to the listener’s language and there is an option to toggle between the patient and the healthcare provider to facilitate conversations within the interface.

As a part of the design project, the team researched clinical challenges, designed the user interface, created the application prototype using Android Studio and conducted user experience testing.

These engineers also applied various engineering standards for translation and interpretation as well as medical application design as a part of their design process. This ASTM award specifically recognizes students who have demonstrated a high level of interest in using ASTM standards in their student projects. The standards used include:

  • ISO 17100:2015
  • ASTM F3130
  • ASTM F2575
  • ASTM F2089
  • ASTM E2350
  • IEEE: Graphic User Interface: Needed Design Characteristics for Successful Physician Use
  • FDA Digital Health Guidance

“At ASTM International, we believe it is critical to introduce students to international standards that are relevant to their disciplines during their college experience,” said Katharine E. Morgan, president of ASTM International. “The wealth of information contained in these standards will be of use to students throughout their careers — aiding them as they study their new professions, gain employment, and as their careers progress.”

Students plan to continue to improve this application in the future by making usability improvements, adding new languages and testing with patients, linking multiple devices, and adding customizable features. This is the second year in a row that students from Golecki’s class have received this award.

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Editor’s note: The original version of this article can be found here. The Language Lifeline Medical Interpretation Application is one of 13 Capstone Projects proposed by members of Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s Class of 2022.