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Original research
Google translate in healthcare: preliminary evaluation of transcription, translation and speech synthesis accuracy


Objective To assess the ability of Google Translate (GT) to accurately interpret single sentences and series of sentences commonly used in healthcare encounters from English to Spanish.

Design English-speaking volunteers used GT to interpret a list of 83 commonly used sentences and series of sentences of different lengths containing both medical and non-medical terminology. A certified medical interpreter evaluated whether the meaning of these sentences was preserved.

Participants Eighteen English-speaking subjects (nine males and nine females), with a mean age of 36 years, volunteered for this study to read sentences.

Main outcome measures The accuracy of GTs (1) real-time voice recognition (ie, transcription) of English sentences, (2) real-time translation of these transcribed English sentences to Spanish, and (3) GTs speech synthesis ability to preserve the meaning of spoken English sentences after translation to Spanish.

Results Speech synthesis accuracy, with preservation of the original English-spoken sentence(s), was 89.4% for single sentences with ≤8 words; 90.6% for single sentences with >8 words; 52.2% for two sentences and 26.6% for three sentences. Furthermore, the number of transcription and translation errors per sentence(s) significantly increased with the number of sentences (p<0.05).

Conclusions Despite the fact that GTs accuracy was widely variable and dependent on the length of the spoken sentence(s), GT is readily accessible, has no associated monetary costs, and offers nearly immediate interpretation services. As such, it has the potential to routinely facilitate effective one-way oral communication between English-speaking physicians and Spanish-speaking patients with limited English proficiency.

  • otolaryngology
  • assistive technology
  • accessible
  • medical apps
  • affordable

Data availability statement

Data are available on reasonable request. Deidentified participant data are available from researcher JB, whose ORCID identifier is 0000-0002-2133-7708. Reuse is not permitted unless previously discussed with researcher.

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