Back to Projects

Talking pictures – communication aid for patients and nursing staff

Research Group Health Care Communication Design / Funding: Bern University of Applied Sciences, Bangerer-Rhyner Foundation

Talking pictures

An image-based digital communication tool is being developed within the framework of the project to support non-textual communication between foreign-language patients and nursing staff where an emergency medical history is required.

Starting position

In the health care sector, comprehensible communication is essential for safe, high-quality and equitable health care for all patients – regardless of their origin. Around 200,000 people live in Switzerland who speak neither a national language nor English. Two preliminary projects that have already been implemented show that, on the one hand, communication with patients and their relatives who speak another language often overburdens nursing staff and, on the other hand, visual representations help to overcome language barriers. Findings from the literature also suggest that non-verbal, image-based aids support communication between nursing staff and patients who speak another language.


In the preliminary projects, the problem of language barriers was thoroughly analysed and an approach to a solution was defined. Based on this, the research team is now developing the prototype of a communication aid in the current project in a participatory process with nursing professionals and patients who are not native German speakers. For this purpose, an iterative procedure allows the rapid development, validation and adaptation of solutions.


The aim of the project is the development and evaluation of a prototypical digital communication aid to provide support in the case of language barriers between child patients, their relatives and nursing staff where an emergency medical history is required. The planned tool is based on an image-based and dialogue principle in order to ensure communication independent of language. The focus is on equal health care for all patients, regardless of their origin. The project aims to promote understanding of the needs of vulnerable groups in the health care system by involving users in the development of a practical solution. On the one hand, it will therefore contribute to the quality of treatment and, on the other hand, nursing staff are provided with a tool that enables them to maintain interaction and communication in an emergency.

Health Care Communication Design HCCD Working Group

Project team
Beatrice Kaufmann, BFH-HKB, Institute of Design Research(Project Manager)
Prof. Dr. Christopher Lueg, BFH-TI, Institute for Medical Informatics
Prof. Dr. Kerstin Denecke, BFH-TI, Institute for Medical Informatics
Loraine Olalia, BFH-HKB, Institute of Design Research
François von Kaenel, BFH-TI, Institute for Medical Informatics
Prof. Dr. Sabine Hahn, BFH-G, Nursing care
Anouk Haldemann, BFH-G, Nursing care
Dr. Friederike J.S. Thilo, BFH-G, Nursing care

Back to Projects