HL20: Blau and Cohn—Understanding the Patient's Need for Understanding

John Commins, December 13, 2011

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Alex Blau, MD, and Brad Cohn, MD.

This profile was published in the December, 2011 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

Alex Blau, MD

 "This was just something we needed and we were surprised that it didn't exist."—Alex Blau, MD

While working the overnight shift at San Francisco General Hospital, Alex Blau, MD, and Brad Cohn, MD, found themselves at the corner of necessity and invention. The two young physicians in training were in their third year of medical school at the University of California San Francisco in 2008, and they were frustrated by their inability to communicate with patients from the Bay Area's diverse racial and ethnic communities.

"In healthcare your greatest diagnostic tool is your ability to communicate, to obtain a decent history and a physical exam from your patients. This is difficult to do with patients you can't easily communicate with," says Cohn, 29, now a resident in anesthesiology at UCSF and San Francisco General Hospital. "Patients who don't speak the same language as their providers sometimes do not have the opportunity to give that vital piece of information they need to in a timely fashion."

So, the pair came up with the idea for MediBabble—an iPhone/iPad app that allows clinicians to better communicate with nonEnglish-speaking patients during the initial exam and history-taking.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.


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