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‘I had no idea we would help this many people’: Startup helps doctors, patients understand one another in 240 languages

In the past 30 days, St. Mary’s General Hospital needed interpreters speaking Albanian, American Sign Language, three dialects of Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin, Farsi, French, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tigrinya, Urdu and Vietnamese.

When Danny Veniott, a program manager in strategy and innovation at St. Mary’s learned about Voyce, he put four of the special iPads for a three-month trial in the emergency room, cardiac ward, diagnostic imaging and a medical ward that sees a lot of referrals and has a rapid turnover of patients. Using an iPad on the articulated arm of a wheeled stand, the average wait for translation at St. Mary’s over the past 30 days was 19 seconds.

“Our patients’ satisfaction was 100 per cent,” said Veniott. “And more importantly, we had more than 95 per cent staff satisfaction, and I never hear that because there is always that 20 per cent who don’t want change.”

Canada is in the second year of a three-year program of increased immigration. Last year, about 430,000 newcomers came to Canada, and similar numbers are expected this year and next. Refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and elsewhere are expected on top of those numbers.