Now that more than one in eight people in the United States are of Hispanic origin, according to the data from the 2002 U.S. Census, many physicians find themselves struggling to communicate with an ever-increasing Spanish-speaking portion of their patient base. That’s why Interactive Drama, Bethesda, Md., has developed an interactive role-playing educational CD called Virtual Conversations Medical Spanish.

The virtual patient the doc learns to take a medical history of is a 78-year-old Spanish-speaking woman with a history of heart trouble. The program prompts the user with questions in Spanish designed to help the physician get the information needed to make sound clinical decisions about her health care. The interview can last for over an hour and may be repeated, in whole or in part. Medical Spanish also includes a Hispanic physician, who serves as a tutor, helping the user to pronounce the questions and phrases used to interview the patient. Users can see the English translations of the Spanish words and phrases; record and replay their pronunciation of the words and phrases; and compare their pronunciation to the tutor's.

Developers say that the program’s learning method has been proven by scientific experiments at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, Calif., to accelerate a users ability to speak, comprehend, and read a foreign language.

For more information and a demo, go to http://idrama.com/medspan_LP.htm.