Editor’s note: RTP Beat is a regular feature on Thursdays.Duke University Hospital has agreed to be the first to test Polyglot Systems’ translation software, which facilitates communication between healthcare providers and non-English–speaking patients.

Four units of the ProLingua system are now deployed in the hospital’s emergency department.

“We have a growing need for interpreters because of the influx of people coming in who have a limited ability to speak English,” says Kathy Finch, clinical operations director of the emergency department at Duke University Hospital. “[Polyglot’s software] doesn’t replace interpreters, but it does allow us to get and give a certain amount of information quickly and with high precision to the patient while we’re waiting for an interpreter.”

Finch says it’s not uncommon to have two to four interpreters at one time helping out in the emergency department.

Polyglot’s software is primarily being used in the registration area to ascertain patient identification information, such as name, address, phone number and date of birth. Finch says the department may branch out and use the system to ask more clinical questions in the near future. The hospital will also explore the use of the software in other departments.

“We found this software to be very useful in that it’s set up logically and asks the questions in a straight-forward fashion,” says Finch. “What’s neat is that it speaks several languages.”

The software allows healthcare providers to print out the questions asked by the computer as well as the patient’s responses.

So far, Finch says patients have also been pleased with the results and the effort the hospital is putting forth to help them. Currently, the department is primarily using the software with patients with minor illnesses and injuries.

“This does not delay the process, but rather enhances our ability to move the process along and care for the patient,” says Finch.

Ed Kavanagh, vice president of product development for Polyglot, says training has gone smoother and more quickly than expected. “We anticipated training could take a couple of hours, but it only took 20 minutes. After that, [the individual we trained at the hospital] was able to demo the software to the rest of the registration team.”

Kavanagh adds that he was pleased to see the software at work within the first 30 minutes. “There was a Spanish-speaking patient there were trying to register, so they brought him over to the unit and they were able to ask him if he was the patient. It turned out that the patient was his nephew.”

Founded in 2001 by Dr. Charles Lee, Durham-based Polyglot Systems has five employees.

NC techies aspire to be part of the Fast 50

The call for entries for Fast Company magazine’s third annual Fast 50 challenge, a worldwide search for “ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” is officially closed. But the good news is that 27 North Carolinians have made Fast 50’s list of semi-finalists. They include such individuals as Peter Coad, founder and president of TogetherSoft; Ping Fu, president and CEO of Raindrop Geomagic; Rashid Khan, president and CEO of Ultimus; David Smith, partner and creative director of the Republik; Doug Lebda, founder and CEO of LendingTree; Mary Cantando, president of Cantando & Associates; and Malcolm Collins, president of enterprise networks at Nortel Networks.

These folks are now hoping for a shot at the final Fast 50…and a profile in an upcoming issue of Fast Company. The candidates, says the magazine, are the “unsung heroes and rising stars” among its readers, from senior executives to engineers to team players.

Readers can check out entries of the finalists, leave comments and vote for their favorites at: