The doctor or nurse brings out a pair of tablet computers with a specially designed language app. Questions are displayed on the tablet, and the computer reads them aloud to the patient in Arabic. He, in turn, uses the app to give answers that the personnel understand. They can rapidly determine what the problem is, make a diagnosis and start treatment without unnecessary delay.
Met in India
“We had actually met earlier, in India, at a meeting that Business Sweden had arranged in our hometown of Kochi,” remembers Naveen Sasidharan. “I had long had an ambition of starting a company and was trying to decide between studying in Sweden or Germany. I ended up in Sweden because I heard that there was a positive climate for innovation and entrepreneurship here. And I’m glad that I made the right decision. Now, I’m simply living my dream!”
The two master’s students realised early on that language barriers cause problems in the medical care system. In the worst case the problems may be life-threatening. They talked to doctors at the Emergency Department at Linköping University Hospital, who encouraged them to try to find a solution. They suggested that the important first meeting between healthcare personnel and the patient should be a particular focus.
This led to the idea to develop a digital tool for communication across language barriers. A tool that could improve interaction, help communicate instantly and reduce costs.
By chance, Naveen Sasidharan and Abhishek Jacob Chethicatt came into contact with LiU Holding, and the innovation advisers there helped them give their ideas a more concrete form and provided impetus in the right direction.
“Without them, we would never have reached where we are today,” says Abhishek Jacob Chethicatt.
A prototype was ready to test in 2017. The app – Helen – contains a large number of medical questions and answers in several languages. In addition to Swedish and English, the app can process Arabic, Somali and Dari (which is used in Afghanistan and other countries).
“These are languages spoken by large numbers of immigrants in Sweden, and there is a severe shortage of authorised interpreters here. We are also working with Tigrinya, which is used in Eritrea,” says Naveen Sasidharan.
The app is now being tested at five clinics in Östergötland: an emergency department, a gynaecology clinic, two local healthcare centres and one clinic in the Swedish dental service. The app has been tailored for use in each of these centres.
“We are in dialogue with doctors and other healthcare personnel who use the app. They find that it is useful in various situations. This is very exciting,” says Abhishek Jacob Chethicatt.
Help in commercialisation