- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

The Kwikpoint business plan is based on the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. A picture can be worth even more in an emergency, where doctor and patient are unable to communicate verbally.

The Alexandria-based company hopes that its latest product, a symbol-reliant translation card, will prove invaluable in places like hospitals and battlefields where an injured person often is unable to communicate, or does not speak the same language as the caregiver.

The Kwikpoint Medical Visual Language Translator, published by GAIA Communications, is intended to solve such problems, allowing instant communication between patient and clinician.

A patient can point to a symbol on the fold-out, laminated card to request and receive information about the cause, symptoms and treatment for the medical condition.

“In the [emergency room], where you need to get to the bottom of a medical situation quickly, the translator can cut down on time,” said Alan Stillman, president of Kwikpoint. “In those first few minutes, there’s some information that’s so critical, it could potentially save a life.”

The medical translator was developed by the six-person Kwikpoint staff in partnership with doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians, or EMTs. It includes trauma images, such as slip and fall, chest pain, car crash and ingestion of toxins; a pain scale chart with Spanish translations; treatment options; medication procedures and allergy information.

One card for personal use costs $16, and there is a quantity discount available.

In addition to cutting down on valuable translation time, the card also provides for private communication between a patient and his or her doctor, eliminating the need to relay a story through a third party.

Kwikpoint plans to expand the medical translator to several new markets, such as retail travel catalogues, travelers’ first aid kits, travel insurance companies, international medical clinics and nursing homes.

“Imagine going to China or Japan, and, God forbid, you get sick and have to use a local clinic where no one speaks a word of English,” Mr. Stillman said.

The medical translator currently has no competition. Kwikpoint is in the process of patenting the concept of graphic medical, military and law enforcement communication.

It has been in development since June 2002, and has been tested by hospitals, EMTs and fire departments across the country.

Members of the Rocky Mount, N.C., Fire Department tested the translator, and said they hope it will help emergency personnel communicate with the area’s growing Spanish-speaking population.

“Will the communication link be perfect? No, I don’t think so, but I believe the capability to communicate is greatly enhanced with the translator,” said Mike Stallings, division chief for the fire department.

“We have not had the opportunity yet to utilize the product on an actual emergency event, but I am confident that the translator will be a useful tool in assessing non-English speaking patients in emergency medical events.”

His department has ordered 15 translators from Kwikpoint, enough for all the front-line and reserve vehicles.

“The impact of utilizing just one of them could make a big difference in establishing the communication link,” Chief Stallings said.

Reston Hospital in Virginia tested the translator in both its emergency room and pediatric unit with mixed results.

The pediatric doctors found it was not applicable to their specific unit setting. The emergency room does have the translator on hand, though it is “not used extensively,” said hospital spokeswoman Denise Dancy.

The U.S. military has been Kwikpoint’s largest client, ordering 10,000 of an earlier version of the medical translator for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have since ordered 2,500 of the newest version for use in overseas medical operations.

“Everyone is saying that it works, that it makes sense,” Mr. Stillman said. “They would prefer to have an interpreter if they could, but especially in Afghanistan where no one speaks Dari [an Afghan dialect of Farsi, or Persian], the alternative is to use gestures.”

Military forces in Iraq also ordered 14,000 of the Kwikpoint Iraqi Visual Language Survival Guide, which has over 200 military images and basic military phrases in both English and Arabic.

Kwikpoint makes three other military language translators — one for the U.S. Marines, one for special forces and one for the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency.

Current sales are double what they were in 2002, and Mr. Stillman credits the shift to the military and emergency markets.

Sales of the Kwikpoint International Translator declined after September 11, and the company almost went out of business. Fortunately for Kwikpoint, that’s when it was contacted by the Marines to develop a military translation card, Mr. Stillman said.

More than 1 million Kwikpoint products are in circulation, and Mr. Stillman has more ideas in the works for both military and civilian use.

Kwikpoint is planning a translator for Navy maritime use, one to help identify known terrorists, one specifically for the Army division for demining, and one for the Army division of Civilian Affairs.

Kwikpoint is also developing specific translators for law enforcement, fire departments, the Red Cross, U.S. Customs and the Transportation Security Administration.

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