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Burning Question: What Are the Top Types of Medical Translation?

Medical translation
Burning Question: What Are the Top Types of Medical Translation?
on July, 19 2017

Today, medical translation is not only one of the most difficult among translations services, but also the most demanded. The medical industry operates worldwide, so it is understandable that it requires medical translation services regularly.

It serves various markets, which speak different languages. Aside from a high level of expertise, the medical translator's skills should also be of the highest level because the requirements for translating medical documents are different for different audiences.

Medical translation services are for medical professionals and people in various medical fields and for the consuming public. The situation makes it very difficult because medical texts contain a huge amount of abbreviations, acronyms and terms specific to the industry.

In addition to this, the medical translator also has to translate medical content in a language that ordinary consumers will easily understand.

Related Post: How To Find a Professional Medical Translator


The industry demands technical precision and linguistic accuracy. Moreover, clients in the healthcare and biomedical industries must also provide multilingual labeling and documentation that conforms to regulatory standards as well as the companies' communication objectives.

Medical translation requires professionals to have expert knowledge and deep understanding of the Regulatory Compliance for international/global markets such as Japan, the European Union, China and the United States.

The life science industry is very demanding, and there are different types of medical translation that require specialization. A translation services provider can either cater to all types or specialize only on specific types in order to serve a niche market.

The medical translation service provider has a long list of medical documents that can be categorized according to specialization. Just like medical practitioners, some medical translators also choose to specialize in specific types of documentation, according to their background and experience.

Medical translation requires subject matter experts, and they often have worked in the different fields of life sciences. Their linguistic ability should be exemplary and their knowledge of specific terminology must be extensive to handle different types of medical translation.

Types of Medical Translation – Hospital Setting


medical translation

The top types of medical translation depend on where the different types of medical content are located and used.

In a hospital or medical facility setting, there are regulations that fall under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It states that discrimination against any person based on national origin by an organization that received federal funding is deemed discriminatory. This includes failure to provide documentation in a language or languages that can be thoroughly understood by the patient.

In 1997, the specific medical translation requirements were further clarified by the Critical Access Hospital Program. They focused on medical facilities located in areas where the number of patients with limited English proficiency is higher than the availability of healthcare facilities.

Related Post: Want to Know How to Become a Medical Translator? Here's How


In this particular setting, here are the areas where medical translation is needed:

  1. Website/marketing materials. It is a requirement to translate hospital and other medical facility websites and their marketing materials to be translated into various languages to reach as many potential patients are possible. A website is often the first place patients visit to find information about doctors and services.
  1. Signage. In larger medical facilities and hospitals where there are numerous departments, signage should be available in different languages. The best way to conform to this is to choose the most common languages spoken by the community the facility serves. It helps patients navigate a place that is unfamiliar to them and prevents them from going into areas where they are prohibited.
  1. Patient information and intake forms. Medical facilities cannot be in a paperless environment. Various forms are needed in medical facilities. Patient information and intake forms should be in the patient's native language and at the same time, medical translation should be made of the completed from in the language the physician speaks. If the patient comes from another country or the forms are from doctors' offices, hospitals and clinics from a foreign country, they are to be translated into the language the receiving doctors understand.
  1. Documents about clinical trials. These documents should always be available in the language of the audience and participants. Clinical trials are vital to the development of medicine and people participating in them should be very aware of the possible risks and compensations that may be involved in the course of the trials. Medical translation of such documents ensures that communication gap is covered.
  1. Informed consent forms. Translation of this form is necessary. The patient must fully understand what is involved in the surgical or medical procedure recommended to them, or what is involved in their participation in a medical study or clinical trial.
  1. Prescription labels. Even English speakers sometime have difficulty comprehending prescriptions written in their own language. So you can imagine how confusing it must be for a non-English speaker to understand a prescription that is written in another language. The prescription labels and the documentation that come with the medicine should be translated into the patient's native language so they can understand that the drug is for. They must fully understand the interactions with food and other medicines; when they should take the medicine; how many times each day; how long they need to take the medicine; if they have to take it with food or what to avoid, such as alcohol, driving, or using machinery. The medical translation must always be 100 percent accurate.

Types of Medical Translation – General


Medical Interpreter

Outside of a medical facility, medical translation is done in different aspects of the medical industry. It's an industry that covers many areas, from drug development, clinical trials, research, medical devices, patents, drug information, academic, patient forms, as well as regulatory and compliance. Let us look at these top medical translations closely.

Related Post: Guide to Becoming a Certified Spanish Medical Interpreter


  1. Academic. The medical field grows through studies and research. Many scientific articles are published in various medical journals around the world. Since many of the international medical journals are in English, scientific article authors often require translations into English. Other documents that need medical translation are the protocols, abstracts and the resumes of researchers.
  1. Patient brochures and websites. Websites of entities involved in the healthcare industry need to be localized to serve various markets. Likewise, all patient brochures and leaflets are now required to be available in multiple languages for easier comprehension.
  1. Market research. The medical device and pharmaceutical industries are very competitive. They need to penetrate various markets as they sell their products worldwide. Just like other companies, they conduct market research in their target countries to know how they fare in terms of branding, product acceptance, pricing, and market position. They need to understand consumer demographics and what competition is doing. These documents must be translated into languages that are understood by company executives, product and market developers and everyone who needs access to the market research data.
  1. Medical devices. This is also a top medical translation requirement. With medical devices, the most important for the consumers is the manual. The end user must fully understand what the box contains, as well as know the parts of the device, how the device works, how it is assembled and how to operate it. Subject matter experts for translating medical devices, aside from medical knowledge, should also have a background in physics and engineering to be able to accurately describe parts and their operation.
  1. Patents. There is a high demand for this type of translation and the level of accuracy here is critical. Patents are applied in all the countries where the drug or device is available that is why the patent application documents should be in various languages.
  1. Clinical trial documentation. There is always a demand for this type of medical translation as pharmaceutical companies all conduct clinical trials to ensure that the drugs they are developing are market-ready and safe. Since their market is global, clinical trials are done in different countries. Several documents are required when submitting clinical trial reports. Documentation includes the following:
  • Clinical trial protocols
  • Informed consent forms
  • Communication log between main study center and other study centers
  • Investigator's brochures
  • Adverse event reports
  • Legal documentation such as statements and agreements between study centers and pharmaceutical companies

Related Post: How Medical Interpreters Change People's Lives


Other Medical Content

Specifically, other top medical translations requests are for the following medical content:

  • Case Report Forms (CRF)
  • Medical reports, for development agencies working in various emerging countries
  • Mental health evaluations
  • Contracts
  • Training manuals and e-learning materials
  • Reproductive health literature
  • Autopsies
  • Bio-chemistry (vaccine) reports
  • Drug registration documentation
  • Instructions for Use (IFU)
  • Marketing Collateral
  • Package Inserts and Labels

Medical translation is highly specialized. It requires translators that have a high level of expertise in the medical field. They must be subject matter experts. They should have extensive experience and training. They should be native speakers of the requested target language, the equivalent educational background and should be certified by recognized by translation industry associations.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

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