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The 3rd International E-Symposium on Communication in Health Care

"Advancing Frontiers of Health Communication Research, Education and Practice during the Pandemic"

Session 5:  Technology and Healthcare Communication


Talk 1: The translation and sociocultural adaptation of web-based tools to enhance person-centred communication for people living with dementia

Tony Johnstone Young

At policy level in the global North, person-centred communication (PCC) is strongly advocated in the care of people living with dementia.  PCC is, however, under-theorised, and the extent to which it is applicable to care in non-western contexts underexplored.   This presentation, firstly, reports on the development of DemTalk- a free, empirically-informed, web-based PCC toolkit in the UK ; and secondly, discusses the adaptation and translation of this tool for culturally and linguistically diverse populations in Malaysia.  In a co-design and co-production exercise involving a multilingual spectrum of Malaysian stakeholder groups DemTalk was readily adaptable for carers, and tools are now available free in the main languages of that country – Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese, Tamil and English . The most significant implications of this project may lie in its potential to guide further adaptations of DemTalk to meet the needs of other populations, and in what this tells us about the translatability and transcultural applicability of PCC.

Speaker's bio:

Tony Johnstone Young is Professor of Applied Linguistics and Communication at Newcastle University in the UK.  His research investigates intergroup and intercultural communication in health, language education and higher education contexts. He is currently involved on projects promoting global citizenship and multilingual competences in Europe for the European Commission; supporting the communicative needs of people living with dementia; and exploring the experiences of people in ‘internationalising’ universities in the global North and the global South.

Talk 2: Physical therapy online: Supporting infants with cerebral palsy and their parents during Covid-19

Phill Harniess & Jeff Bezemer

Physical therapy for infants with cerebral palsy is a key component of early intervention to optimise long term outcomes. During the pandemic, therapists and the families they support have been able to continue therapy using video conferencing tools. We explore how therapist, parent and infant engage in the range of activities that therapy sessions are typically made up of, including conversational and practical activity. We focus on how parents support the therapists in their efforts to direct infants’ attention and action from a distance, suggesting that in so engaging with the therapy, they develop valuable therapeutic skills.  

Speaker's Bio:

Phill Harniess is a clinical academic paediatric physiotherapist based at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. He is currently undertaking a doctoral fellowship, where he is exploring parental engagement in early intervention physical therapy for infants with emerging cerebral palsy (a life-long neurodisability). He is interested in using mixed qualitative methods to understand the multiple dimensions of parental engagement in this context.


Jeff Bezemer is Professor of Communication at UCL Institute of Education. He’s interested in communication, teamwork, learning and technology in healthcare settings. His work draws on video ethnographic methods and has been published widely in social science and medical (education) journals.

Talk 3:  Assessing machine translation in use: Trustworthiness and safety of Google Translate
translations in obtaining surgical consent

Susy Macqueen, Christine Phillips , Tina Campbell , Zhengdao Ye, Johanna Rendle-Short & Katrina Anderson

Google Translate (GT) is a market leader in spoken text to text translation. In March 2020 Google released its real-time voice-to-written text translation tool for Android users for eight languages with plans to expand both the languages and the operating systems for this app. Both these tools are likely to be of relevance for cross-linguistic health care consultations, which are the norm in many health care settings in the Asia Pacific. In order to facilitate such interactions in a time-poor environment, it is likely that clinicians will reach for convenient tools such as GT for assistance, despite evidence that it may mistranslate complex medical concepts (Patil & Davies, 2014). In managing the risks associated with crosslinguistic sociotechnology in health contexts, theories and methods of language assessment, from the field of applied linguistics, are a useful resource for investigating the question the effectiveness and appropriateness of machine-translated, machine-mediated interaction. While prior studies of machine translation have evaluated static written texts or sentences (e.g. Taylor, Crichton, Moult, & Gibson, 2015), the study we report on in this presentation aims to evaluate the trustworthiness of machine translations within the dynamics of ‘high-stakes interactions’, here operationalised as surgical consent interactions. Role-plays between obstetricians and simulated patients with limited English proficiency were carried out in the process of obtaining surgical consent for Caesarean section. GT was used to translate between English and two languages, Chinese and Indonesian, and the GT output was back-translated by human translators. Multiple perspectives were gathered on the interactions in the form of qualitative evaluations from role-play participants, health practitioners and bilingual doctors. A grounded theory approach was taken to build a framework for the assessment of machine translation in use. The findings contribute a more comprehensive view on the assessment of machine translation with implications for policy on the use of machine translation in healthcare contexts.


Patil, S., & Davies, P. (2014). Use of Google Translate in medical communication: evaluation of accuracy. BMJ, 349, g7392.

Taylor, R. M., et al. (2015). A prospective observational study of machine translation software to overcome the challenge of including ethnic diversity in healthcare research. Nursing open, 2(1), 14-23.

Speaker's Bio:

Susy Macqueen researches in the areas of language learning, language assessment and language use in professional, workplace, health and educational contexts. Her current health-related research includes the effects of dementia on conversation and the use of automatic translation in doctor-patient interactions. Her doctoral research focused on feedback and formulaic sequences in second language writing. Susy's background in education includes teaching in primary and secondary schools in a variety of different contexts in Australia and abroad.

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