GovHack acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.
As it stands, health translation services for indigenous people in the Northern Territories remains a critical focus due to limitations on adequate diagnosis by health professionals, often as a result of language barriers. Winning team ‘Dharray Dharray’ faced the challenge of ‘Delivering better health outcomes for people living in remote areas’ with the project ‘Remote Beat.’
For Dr. Kevin Anderson (team Dharray Dharray), a PhD graduate who specialised in health apps for chronic disease management, the goal of project ‘Remote Beat’ was to design a health translation app that assists Northern Territory inhabitants to get accurate diagnosis. Furthermore, it ensures that patients adhere to prescription medicine and attend critical rehabilitation promptly and regularly. Speaking to GovHack, Dr. Anderson stated that he was “glad to notice health streams were available to work on during GovHack”, as his research skills and background in ehealth and Usability Design would come in handy.
Data and Insight
The first step was to utilise what open data from the government was on offer, for example the prevalence of region-specific chronic diseases amongst certain socio-demographic individuals. Gathering such quantitative data allowed for a more robust method of identifying specific needs for specific individuals of a community i.e. a patient-centered approach. “This methodology enabled the identification of a customer base, derived from open Government data to ensure the prototype being built was something which hasn’t been conducted before to this scale. Without being equipped with such data, the needs of the community wouldn’t be as accurately served”, Dr. Anderson stated. Such resources also provide insight into chronic conditions that fall under PPH or ‘Potentially Preventable Hospitalisation’, often used as a proxy measure of the effectiveness of health care in the community, as higher rates may suggest a lack of timely, accessible and adequate primary care. This further confirms the need for translation service apps like Remote Beat, where factors such as language barriers can be addressed and effective measures be taken to ensure monitoring of patients and their respective condition.
Challenges in Language and Translation
There are over 250 indigenous languages within the Aboriginal language. Given this, the logistics surrounding the translation of keywords involved a number of factors; help to identify the specific major Aboriginal languages based on the territory, and using an official Yolngu dictionary to translate words commonly used to describe certain symptoms. Some key challenges faced in this project, according to Dr. Anderson, “relate to support for different dialects and male/female-friendly terminology. Additionally, in-language support for symptoms and related anatomical vocabulary was needed.”
There was also outreach to community leaders in order to get feedback on the proposed product. This ultimately drives usability and interaction, which in turn provides great feedback for future developers.
Upward and Onward
Technological advancements such as this telehealth translation app are precursors to innovation and improvement in ehealth – recognising that is only part of the reward. As Dr. Anderson stated, “A key takeaway is always being open to new surprises, value and listen to community leaders and accepting unique characteristics of each region you’re servicing. Additionally, working within the time constraints of the Hackathon is vitally important to creating a workable prototype which can be refined thereafter.”