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Healthcare’s universal translator, Phrazer, ramps up production this year

A handheld medical device that aspires to translate medical conditions from any patient to their physicians will ramp up production this year.

GeaCom’s Phrazer will go from 300 units in the market to as many as 10,000 by the end of the year, CEO and founder Mathew Johnson said. The company projects that 40,000 units will be sold in 2012. GeaCom’s customers are primarily military hospitals, but some insurance companies are purchasing the device and donating it to hospitals in order to improve efficiency and reduce costs, according to the company.

The $10,000 device is not directly reimbursable. But the Phrazer performs specific functions, such as interventions and patient education, which are reimbursable by Medicare and other insurance companies, the company stated.

The Phrazer – a touch screen with a pair of handles – lets patients in their own language explain symptoms, which can be translated to the physician. The device can also monitor vital signs and store electronic medical records. GeaCom said the device will help cut down on doctor-patient communication, increase efficiency for physicians and medical staff, and more accurately (and digitally) record patient medical histories.

Unlike typical translation services, the Phrazer does not rely on algorithms for translation, and therefore can be programmed with an unlimited amount of languages. “As of now, any hospital can order any language, anywhere” as well as any triage protocol, said Johnson. Within four weeks, the Phrazer will arrive with those specific languages and protocols programmed in.

It’s been on sale worldwide since July.

GeaCom has raised more than $1.6 million to develop the product. Johnson said the company has added specific features around patient literacy. For example, the device closely tracks how quickly patients answer questions and how often they use the features for deeper information. It then adjust how it communicates with the patient based on that knowledge.

Doctors can also communicate with patients through the device. “The doctor may be back in another part of the clinic or hospital but communicating live through video on the main screen and suggest to the patient, ‘I’d like to have you have a blood draw or get these tests done,’ so they can utilize what would typically be wasted time or dead time before the appointment,” Johnson said.

“So they gather to use the device in the lobby space and then proceeding to specific pieces of the examination or tests, helping improve patient flow but also how the clinics manage that patient flow,” Johnson said.

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