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Medical students translate findings: Understanding help for patients

After a visit to the family doctor or a check-up with a specialist, many a patient remains at a loss. Because the medical findings are often just a string of technical terms that tell him nothing. An online portal offers free and anonymous help: here, medical students translate the medical jargon into understandable explanations.

Torsional scoliosis, pancreatitis, systolic murmurs – Talking to the family doctor can give more questions to patients than answering them. Because not every physician can translate the complex technical language into understandable terms . It is even worse for medical findings and medical reports by medical specialists. After all, these are often formulated above all for colleagues and therefore do not even try to take lay people into consideration. But there is help. An online portal explains to patients what is behind technical terms . Beatrice Brülke from the nonprofit initiative washabich.de talks to finanzen.de about how it all works.

Mrs. Brülke, how did the idea for washabich.de come about?

Beatrice Brülke: As a physician you are often asked by relatives or acquaintances to “translate” their medical findings. The two medical students Anja Bittner and Johannes Bittner and the IT professional Ansgar Jonietz have wondered what actually make those who have no doctors in their circle of acquaintances. This gave rise to the idea of ​​”What do I have?”. Within just four days, the website washabich.de went online, which was on January 15, 2011.

How long do patients have to wait about when they submit a report?

Beatrice Brülke: The findings submission works as follows: First, the patient enters with his e-mail address in our waiting list, our virtual waiting room. Within a few days he receives the e-mail with the link to the submission form. When he has submitted his findings, the translation is usually completed within a few days . Among other things, this depends on the length of the findings – a findings page will often contain several pages with easily understandable explanations, and the volunteer translator will need about five hours for this.

Is it also possible to ask questions if there are any ambiguities despite the translation?

Beatrice Brülke: If the patient has not understood something in the translation, he can ask us. Unfortunately we do not have to ask for diagnostic findings , treatment recommendations or anything like that – we can not interpret any findings, just translate them . For such questions, we refer the user to the attending physician. We want to enable the patient to ask his doctor better questions, to make the right decisions and to behave healthier – thus supporting the doctor-patient relationship .

The findings are translated by medical students. Are they even qualified enough to translate a finding?

Beatrice Brülke: To “What do I have?” To become an honorary translator, medical students must be at least in the eighth semester – so we can ensure that they already have the necessary expertise. In addition, they are supported by a large team of medical consultants , which helps with technical issues. At the beginning of their engagement, they also receive personal training in patient-friendly communication, intensively exploring the “What did I do?” permanent doctors are cared for and trained.

Are all subject areas covered?

Beatrice Brülke: Yes, we translate all human medical findings, whether it is gastroscopy, MRI report or cardiac examination.

Suppose the translation of the findings is very different from what my doctor told me: what should I do then?

Beatrice Brülke: Our recommendation is always to turn to the attending physician. Who has understood his findings, can often ask more specific questions. Sometimes it also helps to find another contact person. For example, Independent Patient Counseling can help.

The project is currently funded by donations. Is not there also an interest on the part of the health insurance companies or private health insurers in providing sufficient information to patients?

Beatrice Brülke: Already since 2012, the AOK Federal Association has repeatedly supported us financially. Many other insurers and insurers know that they are very positive about our service. Nevertheless, our financing is far from secured – as a non-profit company, we are not profit-oriented, but impact-oriented. Therefore, we depend on financial support. At the same time, it is very important to us to remain completely independent.

Is it mainly younger people or elderly patients who are most likely to use the project?

Beatrice Brülke: Our users tend to be older. This is mainly due to the fact that they have to go to the doctor more often and therefore receive more frequent medical reports . But also young patients or relatives turn to us.

Thank you for the interview, Mrs. Brülke!

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