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REVIEW: MediBabble App (Free!)

December 31, 2011

NB: This software is free

Software: MediBabble (website)
Manufacturer: NiteFloat Inc. (Twitter @MediBabble)
Cost: FREE         Availability: iTunes Store
Connectivity: no subscription/Internet required once installed; need Internet to download different language modules
Best for: Residents, Med Students, World Travellers
Languages: English, Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Russian, Chinese (Cantonese), Chinese (Mandarin)


MediBabble is a clinical tool; it has basic clinical questions and tailored body-systems questions in written and spoken form. It is designed to help you take a medical history from someone who does not speak English. Right now, there is support for 7 languages and the breadth of the content is impressive. Anything you’d really need to ask is in there. It covers basic introductions to the software as a tool, greeting the patient, getting an idea about their Chief Complaint, asking questions for the History of Present Illness (as organized by system, then common symptoms) and fleshing out the rest of the medical/family/social history. There is also a Review of Systems (ROS) section which covers many of the HPI questions via a slightly different approach.

Okay basically this is supercalafragicalistically awesome for what it is. It is hard to describe the comprehensiveness of this software – but perhaps the screenshots below will give an idea. Better still, download it (it is free) and see for yourself.

Will I actually use it in a clinical setting? I don’t know. The main language of my current patient population is Inuktitut, followed by English, then French. Since French is one of MediBabbles options, I suppose if I have a French patient that I’m struggling to communicate with, I will give this a whirl. While it is a great tool, it is my own knowledge of French that makes me hesitate. The program automatically dictates each phrase the user selects. This is difficult for me as someone who knows enough French but might want to look for a few medical terms or phrases here and there. I’d rather read it in my own voice. Perhaps there’ll be a setting one day to turn off the automatic dictation? I’m sure I would care less about this if interacting with patients in Mandarin where I have no foundation whatsoever. It really is designed more for those who have very limited ability in the target language.

For a free App, who can complain? I will say that there is room for improvement should the developers want to add some polish. Some of the phrases are quite formal and long which may not be practical for clinical encounters; for example, in the French module, asking someone’s name is: “Pourriez-vous me donner votre nom et pr’énom, s’il vous plaît?” as opposed to the slightly more colloquial although respectful (and quicker) “Comment vous appelez-vous?” It might feel a little clunky to someone who knows the second language, but if you have no knowledge of, say, French, this probably won’ bother you.

The communication is inherently one-way. It will not fix your inability to understand the patient. However, MediBabble tries to work around this by having only yes/no, device-input (eg. scroll wheels for date), or pointing to body parts as possible responses. If your patient is patient and cooperates, you should be able to have a clear understanding of what their problem is. And that is really all the functionality one needs.

It’s well worth the two seconds it takes to download – try it out!

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