The Importance Of Utilising Industry Experts When Translating Medical Documents

Specificity is at the core of every pharmaceutical message.

The field is black and white. Specific drugs will cause specific effects, the body acts and reacts in specific ways and specific methods are used in teaching and relaying medical messages (as a few examples). The pharma industry, simply put, is a specific science - and in science, there are no grey areas.

As is to be expected, this means pharma content needs to follow suit - and that translations, in light of that, need to be very carefully executed. In our view, it’s absolutely vital that you choose a translation agency that has subject expertise in pharma, to ensure that your finished translated content replicates the original’s specificities and attention to detail.

The stakes are high if you try and cut corners. In substituting a specialist agency or translator for one with no knowledge of the industry or a machine translation service, you run a great risk of relaying the wrong information: damaging the reputation of your business, wasting everybody’s time, and potentially worse. Here are some of the key considerations.

1. A simple mistake can cost your company millions.

It sounds overdramatic, but it’s true. Simple inflections and differences in niche medical terminology can literally mean the difference between sending out the “right” or “wrong” information: between prescribing a patient the right or wrong medication, between communicating the right or wrong patented knowledge and so on.

A simple mistake in your medical translation, as a result, can end up costing you a small fortune if it ends up being published. The best case scenario is that it may be picked up by a native speaker who knows the subject field well enough to spot the mistake, and disputes it. The worst case scenario is that the content may actually be used in the medical field on a patient, with negative results (before it’s discovered that the translated content is faulty).

To support this, a study, “The High Cost of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice” shows that nearly all claims for medical malpractice (assessed in the study) that were filed by foreign nationals was as a result of poorly translated pharma content - trust us when we say that it’s just not worth the risk!

2. Other languages are not ambiguous.

Not only do medical translations need to be highly specific (reflecting the pharma field) - it’s worth noting that there are many other languages that do not leave room for ambiguity. As a result, it’s extra vital that you hire an expert translator who knows the field and the tongue into which your content’s being translated exceptionally well.

Chinese is a great example of this. Their rigid sentence structure means that messages need to be relayed in a very precise way, and even the slightest inflection in a word or term can hold two polar opposite meanings: 治病 and 致病, for instance, both sound the same and look very similar - but one means “treatment” and the other means “pathogenic” - literally the difference between curing and causing a disease!

3. A bad translation impacts “the big picture”.

It’s not only important that you translate words effectively - it’s important that you see how they slot into context, too. Considering the Chinese example used above, for instance - without context, someone relaying these words vocally could mean one of two completely different things. It’s the context of these words, then, that provides their meaning - a rule that applies to many phrases in pharma documentation.

4. If badly done, the translation cannot communicate as effectively to its target audience.

If the translator does not share the same knowledge as the content’s readership, they simply cannot understand if the document is meeting its intended goal or not. This further damages your reputation as your readership - skilled experts in the technical field into which you’re translating - see your content as juvenile or unreliable, encouraging them to switch to another source of information that matches their level of expertise.

Get it right the first time with our specialist translation services - ask us how we can help you today.