CALD Assist: Technology Supported Communication

Interpreters are often required to aid communication between clinicians and patients from non-English speaking backgrounds. The demand for interpreter services can exceed supply due to availability of qualified interpreters. When clinical staff are unable to communicate directly with patients, their ability to adequately assess and respond to patient needs in a timely manner has the potential to impact upon patient care and experience.

Our Response

CSIRO in collaboration with Western Health developed CALD Assist, a novel communication app to support Allied Health clinicians and Nursing staff during the assessment and standard care of patients from non-English speaking backgrounds when an interpreter is not available. It includes over 200 commonly used phrases professionally interpreted into 10 languages (in addition to English), and grouped by discipline: Dietetics, Speech Pathology, Podiatry, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and Nursing.

Upon selection of an individual phrase, translated text and appropriate images or video are displayed on the screen. The app also allows clinicians to play pre-recorded audio of the translated phrase. For many questions, clinicians can display “Answer Options” that may include text and images.

This app was trialled for six months with Allied Health clinicians, and four months with Nursing staff at the Footscray, Sunshine and Williamstown campuses of Western Health. The app is available in the iPad App Store.


The impact analysis conducted as part of the evaluation of the CALD Assist app indicated that:

  • staff believe the app is valuable and easy to use;
  • time required to complete allied health assessments with patients from non-English speaking backgrounds reduced when using the mobile app;
  • patients were satisfied with how the app supported their communication;
  • clinician ‘confidence’ in the patient’s level of understanding of instructions increased when using the app;
  • clinicians reports of ‘no confidence’ dropped when using the app;
  • clinicians reported ‘success of the interaction’ increased when using the app.

The CALD Assist app has won three awards:

  • 2015 Health Informatics Society Australia, Branko Cesnik Award for Best Academic/Scientific paper
  • 2015 Gold ‘Improving health equality and closing the gap’. Victorian Public Healthcare Awards
  • 2017 ‘Improving the Continuum of Care’ Health Round Table Innovations Award