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Free app simplifies COVID-19 test for non-English speakers

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By Aline Rodrigues

A free mobile app developed by Western Health in Victoria and Australia’s national science agency CSIRO will facilitate vital COVID-19 screening in patients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

The assist app was initially developed in 2017 to support communication between CALD patients and healthcare workers, including nurses, dietitians, speech pathologists, podiatrists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The Victorian Government contributed $454,000 to the development of the app.

CALD Assist features more than 200 commonly used phrases translated into ten languages: Arabic, Cantonese, Croatian, Greek, Italian, Macedonian, Mandarin, Serbian, Spanish and Vietnamese – supported by images, video and pre-recorded audio.

A new update to the device allows non-English speakers to be asked COVID-19 screening questions, where interpreters are unavailable. And it is designed for use by all health professionals involved with coronavirus tests, including doctors.

Western Health Executive Director Operations Natasha Toohey said while the CALD Assist app was designed to complement – not replace – the work of interpreters, it had an important role to play.

 “Clear communication is vital to providing quality health care – at all times, not only during a pandemic,” Ms Toohey said.

According to Dr Jill Freyne, Deputy Director of CSIRO’s Australian eHealth Research Centre, the app was trialled with allied health clinicians and nursing staff to ensure its clinical value.

“The beauty of the app is that is can be used in different settings including hospital patients and visitors and COVID-19 testing centres”, Dr Freyne said. 

Western Health’s Infectious Diseases, speech pathology and interpreting teams have combined to compose, translate and give voice to the COVID-19 questions on the app.

The free CALD Assist app is available on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store

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