Rhode Island School of Design Launches Say Your Pain Translation Tool for ER Patients


Rhode Island School of Design Launches Say Your Pain Translation Tool for ER Patients

Through collaboration with WongDoody, RISD’s Center for Complexity is addressing issues of healthcare equity 

PROVIDENCE, RI (March 16, 2023) – The Center for Complexity (CfC) at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has collaborated with global creative agency WongDoody to develop Say Your Pain: The Universal Pain Translator, a new tool aimed at addressing language and cultural barriers between patients and doctors in emergency rooms, aiding faster and more accurate diagnoses.

The Journal of Surgical Research found that emergency room patients who don’t speak English are 75 percent more likely to die. The CfC is engaged in research on returning humanity to healthcare, using the process of inquiry, iteration and innovation at the heart of a RISD education to challenge issues such as language barriers and stigma.

Free to use and accessible across most connected devices, Say Your Pain empowers patients and their loved ones by giving them a way to describe their pain symptoms when a human translator is unavailable. By making clear communication immediately available, the tool has the potential to prevent deaths and other negative outcomes by reducing the likelihood of incorrect diagnosis during triage.

Say Your Pain displays specific diagnostic terms like throbbing, aching and burning in English and the patient’s language, alongside a recognizable animation so that the patient and medical staff can be confident in the description of the pain. The distinction between different types of pain can be vital information for doctors.

WongDoody developed the visual elements of Say Your Pain in conjunction with animators who are experienced in semiotics. Working with bilingual creatives across the project, and in consultation with more than 30 medical professionals, designers have created versions of the tool for use in the US and Canada to support three core languages: Spanish and Mandarin due to the relative size of the communities, and also Ukrainian, as many from Ukraine have been recently displaced without adequate time or resources to focus on their English-language proficiency.

A campaign to raise awareness of the tool is also being launched, aimed at members of the Spanish-speaking, Mandarin-speaking and Ukrainian-speaking communities who have limited English and those who champion healthcare equity.

Justin W. Cook, founding director of the CfC, says, “Humans are complex social organisms whose health is shaped more by the environments they live in and the people they care for than the clinical services they receive. The frontier of improving human health is connecting the dots between our biology, our environment and our social lives. This is a complex challenge that demands a creative solution.”

“WongDoody has been our partner in navigating complexity and exploring how technology can enhance human experience and communication,” Cook adds. “Our aim, starting with pain, is to dive directly into the cultural, social and environmental factors that are at the core of human health and develop solutions that make good health and wellbeing available to everyone. This is critical work in our efforts to achieve health equity.”

Grace Francis, global chief creative and design officer at WongDoody, says, “Justin and the team at the CfC are committed to bringing humanity back to healthcare. From their deep research and understanding, we were able to spot a design opportunity that can help patients advocate for themselves in medical situations. We hope it will help doctors diagnose faster and more accurately when there’s a language barrier. This has the potential to save lives and could make ER visits less traumatic for patients who don’t speak English. We’re so excited to get the message out to the patients and professionals who can benefit from Say Your Pain.”

The research the Center for Complexity at Rhode Island School of Design is facilitating is made possible with funding from Infosys. For more information about the research the CfC has stewarded to date, visit complexity.risd.edu.

A full set of visuals can be found here.

About Rhode Island School of Design
RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) is a creative community founded in 1877 in Providence, RI. Today, we enroll 2,620 students hailing from 59 countries. Led by a committed faculty, they are engaged in 44 full-time bachelor’s and master’s degree programs and supported by a worldwide network of over 31,000 alumni who demonstrate the vital role artists and designers play in today’s society.

Beyond facts and figures, what is the spirit of this community? Through a cross-disciplinary curriculum of studio-based learning and rigorous study in the liberal arts, RISD students are encouraged to develop their own personal creative processes, but they are united by one guiding principle: in order to create, one must question. In cultivating expansive and elastic thinking, RISD seeks to activate a critical exchange that empowers artists, designers and scholars to generate and challenge the ideas that shape our world. RISD’s mission, at both the college and museum, is not only to educate students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, but to transmit that knowledge and make global contributions.

About the Center for Complexity
Created for an era crying out for systemic transformation, the Center for Complexity (CfC) at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) offers a platform for project-based collaboration and innovation among a diverse range of external partners—scholars, professionals, frontline workers, subject-area experts and advocates—and creative practitioners in the RISD community. With a focus on systems and complex societal challenges, the CfC team applies design processes and creative skill sets to navigate between conceptual and technical questions across myriad scales and contexts. The CfC’s work is guided by the idea that in order to work within complexity, we must create new knowledge by ordering information according to the changing landscape and needs at hand, not according to the logic or thinking of the past.

About WongDoody 
WongDoody, an Infosys company, is an award-winning creative agency founded in 1993 by Tracy Wong and Pat Doody. Today, it creates human experiences through advertising, branding, experience design, strategy and production from 21 studios around the globe.