Phrazer handheld communicator aims to break through the healthcare language barrier


February 23, 2011

Phrazer is a handheld medical communicator that identifies a patient's native language and gathers information using onscreen videos, which is summarized into a medical record compatible with all major EMR systems

Phrazer is a handheld medical communicator that identifies a patient's native language and gathers information using onscreen videos, which is summarized into a medical record compatible with all major EMR systems

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With over 170 languages spoken in the U.S. alone, medical personnel attending an emergency or working in a busy hospital are no doubt often faced with communication problems when trying to dispense treatment. The Phrazer offers a possible solution to this problem. It is billed as the world's first multilingual communication system, where patients provide medical background information, symptoms or complaints with the help of a virtual onscreen doctor speaking in their own native tongue. This information is then summarized into a medical record compatible with all major EMR systems.

When medical workers are faced with a patient who speaks a non-native language, there is a strong possibility that a significant amount of time is wasted trying to obtain information vital for effective treatment. Poor translation can lead to misdiagnosis and incorrect treatment. A Phrazer unit can hold over 300 languages at any one time and, after it identifies the patient's native tongue, gathers the necessary background information using pre-recorded videos of doctors speaking in the patient's own language.

The 12.6 x 5.35 x 0.6-inch (322 x 136 x 17.2 mm) handheld device has a 7-inch capacitive touchscreen display, where the patient can interact with the onscreen activity to help practitioners quickly gather vital information. Audio is fed into the system's 64Gb, 128GB or 256GB of onboard storage (with an additional 8GB of NAND Flash) via a 128kHz microphone, while photo and video information can be recorded via a 3 megapixel camera.

When enough information has been gathered, the specially developed Phrazer operating software then compiles a medical record, which can be fed into an EMR system via Bluetooth or USB. Each 1.49 pound (0.68kg) Phrazer also benefits from built-in GPS, Wi-Fi and 3G functionality, and is powered by a DM3730 1GHz processor supported by 4GB of LPDRAM memory.

Scripts can be customized to suit an organization's individual language needs, and the translation is claimed to be almost 100 percent accurate. The device runs on two internal batteries which are said to offer 22 hours of use between charges, but the unit can also use a couple of hot-swappable external batteries which could extend that operation indefinitely.

GeoCom's Cassandra Bachtell told Gizmag that the Phrazer is due for a Q3 release and "will retail between US$12,000 and US$18,000."

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Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag. All articles by Paul Ridden

When the iPad 2 comes out, will this be obsolete?

Daniel Marcus

Since it has video capability, it might even be able to handle different sign languages!! That would be wonderful for the hospital I work for. I am not a professional interpreter but have been asked several times to interpret for deaf patients that come to the ER. The nearest official interpreter is more than an hour away. This would be a much more reliable way to obtain the medical history.


It should have bluetooth also. :) Seriously though, I think that the ability of this device to be expanded using it\'s WiFi interface into being able to talk with, for instance, a blood pressure cuff, or a camera that could be fitted to equipment for an ear, nose, and throat exam would make this a great tool even for English speaking patients, and save doctors from a lot of data entry and paperwork. In large clinics these devices could even be useful to help NP\'s run a differential.

One problem I can see with this device is that is still will not explain a diagnosis to a patient. Unfortunately, this is the hard part as some patients have limited enough language even in their native tongue to make it difficult to convey what a diagnosis really means.

Daniel: Given Apple\'s SOP, and the rising popularity of non-apple tablet devices, I would say the iPad 2 will have to work hard not to be obsolete when it comes out. However, I doubt it will come with the right software to do this kind of translation, or the grip handles which will automatically take a patients heart rate.

Clipship: your idea is cool, but there is a much better way for patents with hearing loss to communicate with a device like this. In fact, you used it to ask if this device could help with deaf patients. You might consider keeping a tab of sticky notes and a pen near the front of your office if you frequently encounter patents who can\'t hear.

Charles Bosse

Actually, there is an iPhone / iPad app with about 20 languages and 2 sign languages available . And it is much cheaper, too.

Karl Meyer
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