5 reasons why I started Care to Translate

Linus Kullänger is CEO and founder of Care to Translate

First of all, I would normally write in Swedish and I feel a little nervous writing in English – the reason I do this though is to include all people who have shown interest in our product and company. Anyway, here we go:

In 2014, I was a third year medical student eager to get out into the hospital. The preclinical years had given me a lot of theoretical know-how and i was now supposed to put it into practice. I couldn’t wait to meet real patients as my experience from nursing school and working as an assistant nurse had made me feel that the interactions with the patients were the best part of the job. We learned from medical school that retrieving a good medical history from a patient was a fine art in communication that takes time to master and I practised a lot to become good at it.

However, I quickly realised that this was not always easy. Many of the patients I met did not speak either Swedish or English and I found it difficult to even explain to them who I was, not to mention how difficult it was to examine them when we didn’t understand each other. I was surprised of how little there was an interpreter present and that the nursing staff seldomly had any chance of getting help with translations, even though they were interacting with the patients 24/7.

I clearly saw that this caused major frustration within the nursing staff and had very negative effects for the patients but little did I know then how big the issue really was. I then felt the responsibility to do something about it.

Building the first product

Together with a group of friends from medical school we started what was the embryo of Care to Translate in autumn of 2015. We arranged educational evenings for healthcare students to teach them phrases in some of the most common languages of patients that we had contact with and who couldn’t master Swedish or English. Our idea was that we would increase patient safety, protect the patient’s integrity and strengthen medical compliance through tearing down language barriers.

two smartphones showing the first version of the app care to translate

We quickly saw the need of an easy-to-use translation tool in healthcare that could help us communicate with patients in a safe way. With the help of friends and family we developed the first version of Care to Translate which we back then called “Språk i vården” (Swedish for “Language in healthcare”).

The app was launched in November 2017 and gained a lot of traction. During a couple of weeks, thousands of people started using it. It was great, but we also realized that this indicated a greater need than we had expected.

Founding our company

After deeper research we found that the need for what we were developing was huge and global. If we seriously wanted to make a difference we needed to put full time effort into the development.

My father-in-law, medical doctor, professor and great friend Martin Schalling decided to join, and together we founded Care to Translate AB in February of 2018. Our number one goal was to make healthcare more equal for all by tearing down language barriers.

Me and Martin founded the company with the ambition to make a global social impact. With this as a foundation we wanted to build a team that shared the same goals. That is when our third co-founder, Annie Backman, joined us. We met at a pitch competition in Stockholm, which we actually won – but I have to say, our greatest win was Annie who is one of my closest partners and Care to Translate’s COO today.

group photo of maja magnusson, agnes ambriosani. annie backman and linus kullänger

During the first year we have recruited two additional stars, Maja Magnusson, also co-founder and CGO and Agnes Ambrosiani, our translation manager. We all together make up the strong unstoppable impact driven core team of Care to Translate!

The feedback as energy source

For me, the main source to regain energy – besides from working with my team – has been the feedback we have gotten from Care to Translate users. I sometimes doubt whether what I am doing is right, but am reminded over and over again when talking to our customers why I am doing it and the importance behind it. They remind me of the need and the demand for the product and give directions of how to develop it further.

Vulnerable patients

The team and the Care to Translate users may be my main energy resource, but the patients affected by language barriers are what keeps me going and motivates me.

The language barriers affect some of the most vulnerable patients. This applies mainly to refugees who – compared to the average – have a lower economic standard, higher morbidity and lower access to healthcare. Once they receive healthcare, they receive a much poorer quality than the average due to linguistic barriers that arise between healthcare professionals and patients.

a doctor taking the blood pressure of a small boy on a hospital bed

A neglected issue and insufficient and unsafe translation tools

What strikes me when talking to our customers is on what a great scale language barriers have been neglected in healthcare. The lack of interpreters and especially medical authorized interpreters is a well known issue that is given attention in the news from time to time. However, it is not widely known that this issue mainly affects physicians.

The vast majority of nursing staff rarely have access to interpreters and is left without help when they encounter language barriers with patients. And it has to be added that this is the group in healthcare that spends the most time with the patients.

Most of the existing translation tools used today are unsafe due to low quality translation based on machine learning. This might be a small issue in day to day life, but when it comes to healthcare, this can be a question of misdiagnosis, complications, suffering and in worst case, death. In other words, issue has to be taken seriously and the the tools have to be developed without compromising with quality.

In conclusion, these are the 5 reasons why I founded Care to Translate:

  1. I want to effectively and on a large scale help vulnerable patients affected by language barriers.
  2. I want to be able to communicate with my future patients without language barriers.
  3. Healthcare professionals’ overall need for a translation tools is big globally.
  4. Nursing staff is the biggest group affected by language barriers but this issue is generally neglected – but I want to help them, too.
  5. Other translation tools are insufficient and unsafe.

I am proud to say that we already achieved to help thousands of patients and healthcare professionals in Sweden to communicate and by that also improve the care, but we want to help millions.

Language barriers in health care are a global problem that, according to predictions from large international organizations, will grow tremendously over the coming decades due to greatly increasing migration. Care to Translate is therefore investing in being at the forefront when it comes to being able to tear down the language barriers in healthcare globally.

Join us in our mission

Linus Kullänger
CEO and Co-founder of Care to Translate