It is well recognized that when there is a language barrier between patients and physicians, the quality of care delivered suffers. With the rapid rise of patients for whom Spanish is their primary language, this is becoming an increasingly urgent issue to address.

Ultralingua, Inc. has published the Vox Spanish-English Medical Dictionary and Verbs app ($49.99) to help bridge this gap. The app is available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. Read on to see whether this app can help you take better care of your Spanish-speaking patients.


The app provides these key features:

  • English-to-Spanish and Spanish-to-English word translations


  • Search function


  • Verb conjugations


  • A number pad that instantaneously spells out the number in the selected language


  • The ability to look up any word with a single tap

It is important to note that this app does not provide any sort of instruction or lessons on how to speak Spanish or form sentences.  It provides translation only, with no definitions or meanings of words.  Additionally, it is specifically a medical dictionary, meaning that ordinary, non-medical terms may not be found (in the screenshot below, I tried to search “girl,” with no results.)


Therefore, this app would be most useful to practitioners or students with at least some background in the Spanish language.  As far as medical terms go, however, this dictionary seems to be thorough.  It even includes different bacterial and fungal species.

User Interface:

Overall, the user interface is decent, but takes a little getting used to.  Because it is not completely intuitive, Ultralingua has kindly provided us with an instruction page that briefs the user on how to navigate the app and use the key features, complete with picture demonstrations.  This short guide can be accessed by tapping on the little lightbulb icon in the bottom left-hand corner.


For the most part, even without taking a peek at the user guide, the app is pretty easily navigated after a few minutes of experimentation.  For example, you might think the clock icon at the top will translate times, but it actually displays your search history.


As mentioned earlier, you can tap on any word and be taken to a translation of that word immediately.  The languages will also instantaneously swap.  This is a handy feature, though I wouldn’t have known it existed without reading the user guide.  At times it was also a little hard to tap the words with enough precision that the translation would come up.

Uses in Practice:

This app would be most useful in practice for looking up a few quick terms.  Even fluent Spanish speakers may not know how to translate some obscure disease, especially if they were trained in an English-speaking country.  The search function is fast enough that a doctor could even look up a word in front of a patient.

The conjugation feature is helpful, but would probably be too tedious to use during a patient conversation.  This app helps facilitate and improve physician-patient communication for the conversational physician, but for the practitioner with little to no Spanish knowledge, it will be of limited use.


  • The paper version of the Vox Medical Spanish and English Dictionary sells for $35, vs. the $49.99 for this app.


  • Thorough dictionary of medical Spanish terms
  • Decent UI with short guide to fill in the gaps
  • Fast search function
  • Provides a medical student or practitioner with a quick reference in their pocket


  • It’s got “granulation” but not “grandmother.” Though not intended to be a comprehensive dictionary, it would have been helpful to include some non-medical words that are commonly used in patient conversation, e.g., family members for taking a family history. This is yet another reason why this app might not be as useful for users who lack a solid background in Spanish
  • Does not include audio.  Pronunciation of a different language can be tough, especially with unfamiliar words.  Adding an audio component, where the user can hear a speaker pronounce the word correctly, would be tremendously useful and provide a strong reason for someone to choose the app rather than the paperback dictionary


  • If you’re at least a decent Spanish speaker who would like to improve the clarity of your conversations with patients, this app is a good reference.
  • It’s fast, easy to use, and mobile, and future updates including audio pronunciation and a few select non-medical terms would greatly improve its usefulness.
  • If your Spanish proficiency is so limited that you desperately need a translator to begin with, this app is probably not worth the price.

iTunes Link