Medical translation is translating various types of documents, such as training materials for healthcare, medical device or pharmaceutical fields, marketing or clinical, regulatory, and technical documentation.
Many doctors engage the services of medical translators for their patient records, prescriptions, medical history and diagnoses that are written in another language.
Medical translation is not just about working with doctors, as there are several other areas where it is needed. For example, in labels and literature pertaining to pharmaceuticals and medical devices sold locally to be translated into the language they commonly use.
The translation of medical text is very important for clinical trials in order for patients, local clinicians and representatives of regulatory organizations to understand them. Likewise it is usual for regulatory approval submissions to be translated.
Medical Translation Basics
Not all translators are tasked with medical document translation. The translator, aside from having excellent linguistic skills in their chosen language pair, must have knowledge of the subject matter and received specific training. This is not surprising given that fact that medical texts are regulated. Moreover, they are highly sensitive and technical in nature.
The process for medical translation involves many steps. It normally starts with the extraction of the text from the source or the original document. The text would then be converted into the target language.
After the text has been translated, an editor would check it to ensure that the translator followed the medical terms and meaning based on the medical terminology approved by client or the industry.
For example, medical translation English to Spanish should use the form of Spanish that is officially recognized in the target country. The editor will also check the voice and the style mirrors that of the source document. After the editor checks and approves the translation, it would be put back into its original format, for example, as an e-learning program or web page or Word document.
The checking of the medical document translation does not end there. It still has to go through a proofreader who will ensure that the text, when formatted into the style like the original, will display correctly. This means that there should not be corrupted or garbled text, the page breaks are done correctly and the proper punctuation is followed.
There will also be an in-country review. In this phase a subject matter expert, who is also a native speaker of the target language will review the work. This is to make sure that all the specifications required by the client are met. Only after everything checks out will the medical translation be sent to the client.
Requirements and Rules
The translation of medical texts considers the various requirements and rules that pertain to the source texts. Medical translation is very specialized and needs more attention, such as subject matter expertise to be able to accurately translate various documents, from labels to leaflets, to medical journals to patient journals, to training materials to patents.
Doctors with their own private practice who serve multilingual communities need the services of a professional medical translator. Hospitals and clinics also use the services of medical translators.
Because medical texts mostly involve the lives of patients, there should be a strong focus on the quality of medical translation. The global medical industry is heavily regulated. Companies that need to translate their medical documentation often choose professional, compliant and certified translation agencies.
Some of the standards translation services providers comply with include ISO 9001, ISO 13485 for medical device manufacturing and EN 15038 for translation vendor quality imposed by the European Union.
Generally, medical translators should have excellent knowledge of their working language pairs. They must have a deeper understanding of the differences in culture of various countries. Likewise, they must have a knowledge of physiology and anatomy and knowledge of medical terms and meaning. Medical translators must fully understand ethical issues and many concepts of health care.
The above are the core skills of a medical translator. However, there are more qualities required of them. These qualities are what doctors should look for when they want to work with a professional medical translation provider.
In order to accurately translate medical documents, they must possess top-notch writing skills in their working languages. They must have strong research, analysis and reading skills and an in-depth knowledge of the range of medical terminology for translators and medical concepts.
Aside from that, a medical translator must also be able to access appropriate reference materials and resources. While they should be familiar with medical terms, it is important they have access to medical terminology for translators in both languages.
Importance of Medical Translation in Healthcare
Doctors and other healthcare professionals work hard to make sure their patients are well and in good health. When working in multi-ethnic communities, it is important for doctors to understand their patients, their medical history and their ailments. They must be able to communicate with their patients.
It is critical for doctors to make the right diagnosis thus they have to understand what caused the patient’s illness. Medical interpreters are available to assist doctors, but for better understanding, their medical documents written in different languages should be translated. Not many doctors are bilingual or multilingual, so for efficient and effective provision of healthcare services, doctors must work with medical translation companies.
All document translation work is challenging, but medical translation is one of the most challenging. It is also important for the translation to be accurate. There are documented cases of patients’ lives threatened because of wrong diagnosis or wrong prescription because the patients and doctors were not able to fully understand each other.
Medical interpreting should also be mandatory in hospitals and medical institutions. This is not only ethical, it saves lives and is requiered by law in many countries. Check our free guide on healthcare language services to know more.
Challenges in Medical Translation
Doctors and other healthcare professionals should be aware that medical translators also face a number of challenges in order to translate medical information. It is not enough to know the language pairs. Translators for medical documents should know about medical language, which is a specialist language.
Just like doctors have to be familiar with new medical terms, medicine, conditions and disease, the medical translator should be up to date regarding them as well.
They must have a working knowledge of the subject matter, so doctors with good writing skills and fluency in one or two language pairs could be a medical translator.
This is a major reason why those who are hired to translate any type of medical information must possess medical experience in a specific field and the appropriate terminology so they will not put patients at risk.
Medical experience is not enough to translate medical documents. Medical translation must be precise, thus the translators must also have specialization. A translator experienced in oncology may not be able to translate documents regarding hematology.
Therefore, doctors and other individuals who need to translate their medical information must work with a translator who’s a specialist in the specific medical branch. It is an assurance that the translation would be accurate.
In doing medical translation English to Spanish for example, the tone and language of the translation, aside from mirroring the original source, also depends on who would be reading the translation.
The choice of words for translation that will be used by doctors and nurses, is going to be different from the translation that will be read by experts in the field, such as clinicians, researchers, international doctors or governing bodies.
Related Post: 5 Reasons to Become a Medical Translator
Tips for Doctors and Other Practitioners
With the increasing number of international migrants all over the world, it is inevitable to have a growing need for the translation of medical records and other language services.
Some countries are dealing with legal and illegal migrants, asylum seekers and refugees who only know their mother tongue. Retirees opting to relocate to other countries where the pace of life is slower have to deal with locals who do not speak a second language.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals need to effectively communicate to enable them to treat their patients properly.
Communication is difficult when medical workers speak a language that is different to what the patients they are treating fully understand. This is where the risk of mistreatment occurs because the patient’s complaint and medical history is misunderstood. Medical blunders are often costly.
Medical translation is complicated and doctors need to be careful when choosing a medical translator. There is always the possibility that the medical records written in a foreign language can be mistranslated. There are documented cases regarding claims for medical malpractice.
They state that most claims made by foreign nationals were due to poor documentation of their records because the patients have limited skills in the language spoken in the country they have relocated to.
Accurate medical translation benefits the patient and the entire medical team. The doctors and nurses will have a better understanding of the patient’s past medical history and their current complaint.
Medical institutions should translate their medical forms, post-discharge instructions, prescriptions and other forms and information to enable them to treat patients better.
When you need to translate medical documents, it is important to hire expert translators who have academic qualification in a specific field.
The translator must be very familiar with pharmaceutical and medical industry terminology and the rules required by regulatory bodies that biotech firms and pharmaceutical companies must follow.
This includes translation of marketing information when introducing products overseas, such as patent applications, marketing and advertising copy, instructions for use and ingredients used in the medication.
Medical practitioners can find expert medical translation providers through word of mouth recommendations. You can also use search engines, but one of the best ways to find excellent medical translation providers is through association directories where you can also check their expertise in both the source and target languages.
When you have found the translation providers you think you can work with, check the degrees and certificates of the translators, their experience, specialization and their references. You can never be too sure when lives are at stake and every word matters.