"What do I have?": Initiative translates incomprehensible results

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Online platform: Students translate incomprehensible medical reports
Around every fourth German does not understand his doctor. This was the result of a study from the year before last. The problem has existed for a long time, but experts say it is not being addressed consistently enough. A Dresden initiative has been doing something about it for five years now. On an online platform, patients can "translate" incomprehensible medical reports free of charge.

Many patients do not understand their doctor
Years ago, Federal Minister of Health Hermann Gröhe called for doctors to be better trained in dealing with patients. At the time, he said that it was also a question of respect that patients "have their illnesses and treatment options explained in an understandable way". But the problem persists: far too often, doctors do not express themselves clearly enough to their patients. For example, one or the other affected person will panic when he hears from the doctor that he was diagnosed with arterial hypertension. The expression is a matter of course for doctors, but patients often do not know that this is not a rare disease, but an increase in blood pressure. A message from the dpa news agency reports on a Dresden initiative that helps patients understand what the doctor actually wanted to tell them.

Volunteers translate incomprehensible diagnoses
"When it comes to medical findings, it quickly happens that patients only understand the filler words of the entire text," Dresden medical student Elisabeth Vinis told the news agency. The young woman is one of 167 volunteer translators nationwide on the Dresden online platform "What have I got?". Patients who submit their findings anonymously there usually find out within a week what medical word monsters really are. The services of "What do I have?" Are free of charge. The portal, financed through donations and collaborations, is unique in Germany. Three permanent employees and the three founders are paid. It was founded five years ago by the Dresden medical students Anja and Johannes Bittner and the computer scientist Ansgar Jonietz. In the meantime, the students have become doctors and the idea has become a social enterprise with over 40,000 monthly online visitors. On the occasion of the fifth birthday in January, the founders have many visions for the platform. "But of course it would be best if we didn't have to exist anymore," said Jonietz according to dpa. The interpreters have their hands full. The platform has been accessed 860,000 times by patients since 2011.

Students also benefit from their help
Most of the volunteer translators are aspiring doctors. The activity is of great benefit to them too. With every translated finding, medical students from 41 faculties across Germany learn about it. "This is the sustainable component," said Jonietz. The Saxon State Medical Association praised "What have I got?" "The project has positive effects for both sides," said a spokesman. It is a good addition to medical education and school medical students in communicating with patients. The students, who must be at least in the eighth semester, are supported by numerous specialists. According to the information provided, they are only allowed to translate alone with the blessing of their supervisor and at the earliest from the fifth translated result. Elisabeth Vinis has achieved this status and has been with it for around six months. She came to the portal via a course at the Technical University of Dresden. Medical-German has been offered there for students since 2014. "The medical students still have a desire to help people," says Vinis.

Findings are not interpreted
The Dresden student finds it particularly practical that volunteering is so flexible. A three-page finding, sometimes translated at night, could quickly become ten pages. "That could take four to six hours," explained Vinis. According to her information, she sometimes takes an extra amount of time. “My last finding was from a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer. So of course I pay particular attention to how I express something. ”Patients also have the opportunity to give their translators feedback via the platform. "I didn't expect that in the case of the young woman," explained Vinis. Therefore, she was all the more moved by the return of thanks - including a declaration of war against cancer. However, the feedback function is also said to cause problems. "The patients take trust and then want them to be relieved of their decisions," says Jonietz. However, the portal cannot and does not want to interpret the findings.

Perfect communication between doctor and patient
The volunteers translate around 150 anonymized reports every week. So far, there are more than 25,500 in total. This was a great success, but only a drop in the bucket, said Jonietz. The team is therefore currently working on a new model. As part of the pilot project "Patient Letter" "What do I have?" Wants to translate all discharge letters from hospitals quickly and partially automatically into simple language using individualized text modules. For this, two more doctors will be employed after the birthday party in January. At some point, Jonietz’s vision of perfect communication between doctor and patient could then arise. According to his own information, he would be happy if the platform eventually became redundant - for a good cause. (ad)

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