When it comes to something as fundamentally important as medical documentation, room for ambiguity doesn’t exist.
Where the cost of an error can be unimaginable, only a clinical, professional translation by a qualified, expert linguist will suffice.
What are the various aspects of medical translation, and how can I ensure I get the best result, first time? As a language service provider with over 22 years’ experience translating all manner of specialist material, here’s our thoughts on the challenges of medical translation.
Medical documentation translation: Your project
The word ‘medical’ is broad, covering a range of documentation and paperwork.
It may include the translation of instructions for use (IFUs), or of documentation for a clinical trial. ‘Medical translation’ may also cover the translation of medical journal articles, audit papers, marketing collateral or something else. It might refer to medicine packaging inserts (PILs — Patient Information Leaflets and SPCs — Summaries of Product Characteristics) or labels, a medical questionnaire or a medical data sheet.
The list goes on; we’ve worked on an array of medical documentation.
What makes medical translation so challenging?
Translators of medical documentation do an incredibly important, highly complex job.
As most people will be well aware, there’s more to medical translation than simply rendering text into another language. It’s about applying specific medical knowledge to ensure an unambiguous, clinical message and meaning; this makes it imperative that professional experts are involved.
In clinical trials, for example, regulations state that the trial should be conducted in the native language of both parties. This involves the expert translation of all relevant medical forms and information; this documentation must be available in standard level language (language able to be understood by a child of school age). Conveying complex medical meanings like this demands a specialist input.
Similarly, if you’re looking to market your medical products overseas, you’ll be legally required to translate the instructions for use (IFUs), packet information, inserts and other relevant paperwork. To do so requires a rare combination of linguistic skill and technical knowledge.
To translate for a certain country or region, you also need a strong, intimate grasp of the appropriate subject matter relating to that area, as well as of the global medical industry. Certain jurisdictions may have confusing jargon, unique vocabulary and terminology, as well as specific laws governing medical practice and healthcare.
Even between countries that speak the same language, there can be regional variations in language used.
As such, the linguistic and technical expertise that medical translation demands makes it a highly-skilled, admirable endeavour.
Why is pinpoint accuracy so important in medical translation?
In medicine and healthcare, the cost of a translation error or miscommunication can be more than financial.
Healthcare providers will be well aware that they risk being sued for medical negligence if a patient is found to have been harmed through lack of qualified translation or interpretation.
There are a number of examples of a language barrier leading to avoidable medical catastrophe. For two high-profile examples, take the case of Willie Ramirez, or that involving Nilujan Rajatheepan. In the first, confusion lay in an interpretation of the Spanish word ‘intoxicado’, which can be used to refer to food poisoning or the use of illicit substances. In the second, a communication breakdown at an NHS hospital resulted in a newborn child suffering life-changing brain injuries.
Heartbreaking stories such as these underline the importance of crystal clear, clinical language interpretation and translation in medical and healthcare settings.
Indeed, litigation cost the NHS £2.4bn in 2018–19, 2% of its entire budget. Money set aside for these claims is the UK government’s highest public sector liability, only behind nuclear decommissioning. One piece of research, The High Costs of Language Barriers in Medical Malpractice, shows that a vast number of claims for negligence arise from poorly-translated medical content.
Medical records and related documentation are intrinsically extremely sensitive and important. The best people to translate such things are professional, native linguists with an excellent clinical understanding and first-hand experience of the relevant medical sector.
How do I get the perfect medical translation?
The astonishing work that medical translators do is as valuable as it is mind-blowing. Having these people on your side when translating documentation is absolutely crucial.
At Alexika, we deliver authentic, clinically-unambiguous medical translations of the highest quality. Considering the challenges and potential pitfalls inherent to medical translation that we’ve discussed, how do we go about it? What are the key ingredients for a perfect medical translation?
- Native speakers — By assigning your medical translation project to someone whose mother tongue is the target language, you’ll have an end product that reads as if it was created in that language. That is our golden rule for translations, and it’s how we guarantee a fully-authentic translation every time. We’ve written in more detail about the importance of translation into one’s mother tongue.
- Subject matter experts — As well as being a native speaker of the desired language, your translator will be someone with impeccable knowledge of your target medical sector and all its related jargon and terminology.
- Professional project management — Your project will be handled and overseen by a fully-qualified, dedicated Alexika account manager, themselves a graduate linguist. They’ll be with you at every stage.
- Leading software — Our translators and project managers make sensible use of the latest translation software, including SDL Trados. This assists them in their work, allowing them to achieve accuracy, consistency and authenticity.
You can visit our page on medical translation services for more information.
Let’s get started.
Entrust Alexika with all of your medical documentation translation needs.
For over 22 years, we’ve been providing expert, clinical medical translations. Get in touch with our friendly team for a quote on your medical translation project.
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