The Northeastern University of Boston, USA, is one of our partner universities. Their Computer and Information Science research laboratory carries out many investigation projects, and this is one of them.
Have you ever felt that you can’t understand what the doctor has prescribed for you, or the instructions you have been given before an operation, because they are written in an unintelligible language? This case can be given by many different causes. For example, the instructions can be badly written, they might contain too many technical terms, the person who has to read them can have bad eyesight, there might be cultural differences between the reader and the writer, or the reader can even be illiterate. Truth is this is not something that happens only in medicine, there are other areas with this communication problem, such as with legal texts, but this might be the most dangerous area, because if a patient doesn’t understand the prescription and instructions he is given by his doctor there can be fatal consequences.
Several studies have demonstrates that a patient understands medical information better when you combine text with an explanation given by medical staff. Nevertheless, nowadays the staff has no time to spend explaining to the patients, and patients might feel abandoned.
Within this context, the Northeastern University has developed software that provides a virtual agent, or in other words an interactive person, that explains medical documents in detail and in an understandable way. To carry out this project, researchers have studied real doctor’s interaction with patients, in order to learn from doctors with experience in explaining medical concepts plainly. The project has developed a method to “translate” instructions by simulating this doctor’s behavior and therefore make them easy to understand from a patient’s point of view.
The FIB offers exchange programs that can take you to study at other universities, such as the Northeastern. There are also agreements with partner universities to obtain double diplomas, so just enter the FIB webpage and discover where you can study part of your degree!