Care Through Communication

How the mobile translation device Pocketalk is transforming the healthcare space

What at first was a simple donation effort — the mobile translation device company, Pocketalk, gifting devices to hospitals and first responders across the nation — quickly transformed, as Joe Miller, General Manager for Pocketalk, Americas calls it, into “a divine moment of clarity.” Doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, caretakers of all stripes needed to connect with patients, no matter their respective native language. And so, as scores of diverse patients flooded the hospitals during the pandemic — many filling tents in hospital parking lots simply looking for answers to basic questions — a solution was needed to facilitate accurate conversation during such healthcare interactions.

“We always knew there was so much more we could be doing to help,” says Miller. “But what we realized is that maybe our product wasn’t strictly hardware. No, what we were facilitating was conversation.” 

Miller describes witnessing one of these pop-up tents outside a hospital in the Bay Area. He began to wonder how Pocketalk could assist in the healthcare effort. “The amount of people there that didn’t speak English was overwhelming,” he recalls. “And how were they going to find a translator to help them?” 

In short order, with Pocketalk now inserted into the healthcare space, the device, originally conceived as more of a consumer device used for international travel, had now transformed into something much larger: a tool to effectively solve language barriers and facilitate positive conversations in healthcare settings.

Yes, what Pocketalk’s leadership team soon realized – and swiftly put into action, particularly as COVID took hold in early 2020 –  is that their product had the ability to provide a far greater good than they ever could have initially imagined. When launching in 2018, Pocketalk had set out to address one principal concern: how could a product most effectively alleviate translation and language barriers for those traveling abroad? 

But now, they realized, their product could greatly transform the healthcare experience between providers and patients. 

Though this solution was not without its roadblocks: an initial barrier for Pocketalk’s entry into the healthcare space, says Paul Malmquist, Pocketalk’s Director of Business Development, was the fact that the device was not initially HIPAA-compliant. Only one year later, in 2021, Pocketalk then became the first HIPAA-compliant mobile translation device on the market. 

The result? “HIPAA compliance opens doors immediately” in the healthcare space, Malmquist explains. To that end, medical facilities across the nation – from emergency-care facilities to dental and orthopedic offices – called on Pocketalk to address their communication needs.

In Miller’s estimation, what Pocketalk has done in less than two year’s time is nothing short of completely changing the notion of bedside manner in healthcare. Where those who didn’t speak the native language at any given healthcare facility were once largely in the dark as to their progression of care, now with Pocketalk they could be active participants in their treatment. 

“It’s a solution that a doctor, a nurse, a hospital needed,” Malmquist surmised. “The ability to connect conversation and to provide proper quality care for a patient.

“Because, in the healthcare space, when a provider can build relationships with patients, the level of care becomes infinitely different,” Miller adds. “It’s the unintentional separation between mandatory check-the-box care and having somebody in your corner who really cares because they get to know you as a person.”

And with Pocketalk now steadily making its way into the hands of healthcare workers, who are in turn using it to have meaningful dialogue with patients, Pocketalk is revealing itself to be far more than a simple device. But the work for Miller and Pocketalk still continues. “It feels like we have a solution that can really and truly help people,” he says proudly.