UK doctor invents digital flashcards to help Covid-19 patients understand staff

Cardmedic has created an innovative solution to smooth communication between patients and medical staff wearing face masks.

Cardmedic app

A coronavirus patient’s terrifying hospital experience inspired an NHS doctor to create a flashcard system to improve communication with medical staff wearing face masks.

Anaesthetist Rachael Grimaldi founded Cardmedic while on maternity leave after reading about a Covid-19 patient who was unable to understand healthcare workers through their personal protective equipment (PPE).

Her system enables medical staff to ask critically ill or deaf coronavirus patients important questions and share vital information on digital flashcards displayed on a phone, tablet or computer.

The idea went from concept to launch on 1 April in just 72 hours and is now being used by NHS trusts and hospitals in 50 countries across the world.

Grimaldi, 36, from Brighton, said: “Unable to be patient-facing during the Covid-19 pandemic, I was desperate to do something to help while on maternity leave.

“What started out as me wondering if healthcare staff could use a pen and paper to communicate with patients, within 72 hours, turned into an online A-Z index of digital flashcards.”

Cardmedic is currently available in 10 different languages, including Polish and French, and features a “read aloud” option to help those who are blind or too unwell to read.

The communication cards are free to download on Cardmedic’s website, and have already been accessed by more than 8,000 users.

“The feedback has been fantastic, I have been really blown away,” said Dr Grimaldi. “People have said it’s such a simple idea, why hasn’t it been thought of before?”

Grimaldi, who works at the Brighton and Sussex university hospitals NHS trust, said it would be wonderful if the patient who inspired her idea knew something good came out of his experience with the illness.

She said the intensive care patient had been terrified because he could not understand what was being said to him through the masks and visors of health workers, according to the article she read.

Cardmedic, which is also now available on a mobile phone app, is already being used in hospitals across the UK, Africa, Asia and the United States.

Grimaldi was supported by the Department for International Trade, which provided her with a dedicated trade adviser; Estelle Dingley and helped connect her to local businesses in Brighton.

The international trade secretary, Liz Truss, said: “Cardmedic is one of the many businesses working hard to support our NHS at a crucial time, and I am proud to see them already making a global impact and helping save lives.

“This is a truly innovative product that could change the future of the healthcare industry and be widely applied across the world long after the pandemic.”

Grimaldi said work was under way to provide the Cardmedic service in 30 different languages.

The business is also developing an app which will include illustrations and videos for British Sign Language, as well as creating downloadable PDF versions for healthcare professionals to print, laminate, write on, wipe-off and reuse.