Translation Software Attempts to Save the NHS Time and Money

18/10/2011 | Hayley

A company in the Midlands have designed a piece of translation software which they claim will save the NHS millions of pounds in translation fees by allowing doctors to communicate with non-English speaking patients directly.

The translation software has been designed so that it is accessible online using both desktop computers and portable devices such as laptops and iPads. The software can also provide translations into 33 languages, 22 of which are audio enabled.

Translation software trial

The system, which is the first of its kind, was trialled for 6 months at a local hospital, but officials there have yet to comment on how the trial went. The hospital department has since purchased the software, although it is not known how much it costs or how much money it actually saves the hospital over a longer period of time. The company behind the translation software claims that it has almost halved translation costs within the department.

A spokesperson on behalf of the company has said: “The software will not replace face-to-face interpreters in every situation, but in the majority of cases it is more than adequate, and in emergency situations it is potentially life-saving.”

Comment

Language Insight are worried that the quality of translation services in the NHS will suffer as a result of the government’s urgency to cut costs wherever possible, without thinking of the wider consequences. We are always happy to welcome cutting-edge developments within our industry which fundamentally improve the way we work, but in our opinion, technological innovation for its own sake is a step back.

Whilst cost-cutting measures are difficult to avoid in today’s society, in this situation, it is hard to see how translation software will help improve existing healthcare services. We are yet to see any significant developments in translation software which will both save costs and improve the quality of services. We are not even sure that advanced translation software will save the NHS as much money as it was first thought, especially after taking into account the costs of installing and maintaining the software and training staff who are not tech savvy. More importantly, no electronic or machine translation will ever match the clarity and accuracy of human translation, and in sensitive or emergency situations such as these, there is simply no room for error.

Image credit: jfcherry

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