New EMS 'translating cot' a little too honest for comfort
A new EMS cot with built-in audible translator conveys more information between patient and medic than intended
CHICAGO — Chicago medics beta testing an EMS cot with voice-recognition software fear an attempt to streamline communication with non-English-speaking patients has backfired.
"We're having some small issues with accuracy," said Chicago Paramedic Hans Trembles. "It's a little too accurate."
In a city known for its wide diversity of ethnicities, the cot, called Translate Every Language in Secure Audible Wireless Link (TELSAWL), was designed as a quality-control measure for patient conversations.
With built-in microphones and speakers, and a microcomputer with translation and voice-recognition software, TELSAWL records and transmits the medic-patient conversations to a central computer.
Eventually, that link will go directly to hospital emergency departments.
Trembles reluctantly handed over the transcript of a call last week involving a woman who is a frequent flyer:
TELSAWL: "What screwy made-up condition is it today? We know you're faking it."
Woman: "I feel dizzy, short of breath."
TELSAWL: "She says she smokes and drinks too much and grew bored so she dialed 911 for the fifth time this month. [To the patient] You think we're a taxi service? You know there are people with real illnesses waiting for us?"
TELSAWL has been heard letting out groans when loaded with a bariatric patient and offering relationship advice to a domestic-abuse patient, Tremble said.
Once, it tried to entice Tremble into an over-under bet on how long the patient would live.
"Even if the patient had survived the night, how do you give 10 bucks to a talking cot?"