Posted on Jul 26, 2015 in | 0 comments

With the support of the APA/SAMHSA Minority Fellowship Program and the UC Davis Behavioral Center of Excellence, we’re working on tools that can translate the patient-doctor relationship. From our grant:

The problem: Mental health needs are inadequately met for underserved individuals, particularly those with limited English proficiency (LEP). Within the U.S., 22.4% who spoke another language at home had limited to no English-speaking abilities1.  The recommended medical practice for communicating with patients who do not speak English or have LEP is to use live interpreters.2

Within behavioral health, diagnosis, assessment, and atreatment relies more heavily on speech and communication than in other medical specialties, and even well-trained interpreters can have difficulty interpreting some psychiatric symptoms, especially those of psychosis. Unfortunately, live interpreters are not always available due to budget and personnel restrictions, and certification of their training level, when they are available, is not mandated.3–6. Even with interpreters present, limited English proficiency impedes a patients’ understanding of healthcare providers’ instructions, explanations, and history-taking questions.1

The solutionOur project will implement an efficient, provider compatible, administratively simple health IT solution: automated translation and transcription of Spanish spoken words recorded on video into English subheadings shown on the videorecording of the original foreign language interview. This will enable clinical assessment using asynchronous telepsychiatry consultations without the need for interpreters.

We propose creating a new clinical tool that will enable English-translated captions to appear in asynchronous telepsychiatry consultations. The voice recognition and language translation will occur automatically using software and can be checked for accuracy.


With Peter Yellowlees MD MBBS (principal investigator), Andrés Sciolla MD, Glen Xiong MD, Alberto Odor MD, Shang Wei MS, and Michelle Burke Parish MA.


  1. Ryan C. Language Use in the United States: 2011: American Community Survey Reports. 2013. Accessed November 17, 2014.
  2. Juckett G, Unger K. Appropriate use of medical interpreters. Am Fam Physician. 2014;90(7):476-480.
  3. The Joint Commission. Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care: A Roadmap for Hospitals. Oakbrook Terrace, IL; 2010.
  4. Tschurtz BA, Koss RG, Kupka NJ, Williams SC. Language services in hospitals: discordance in availability and staff use. J Healthc Manag. 2011;56(6):403-417; discussion 417-418.
  5. Foden-Vencil K. In The Hospital, A Bad Translation Can Destroy A Life. Shots: Health News from NPR. 2014. Accessed November 12, 2014.
  6. Randhawa G, Ferreyra M, Ahmed R, Ezzat O, Pottie K. Using machine translation in clinical practice. Can Fam Physician. 2013;59(4):382-383.