Monday, October 12, 2020

How to Deliver Better Healthcare by Using Medical Translation Services by Ofer Tirosh

Productive and efficient communication is one of the main factors in delivering better healthcare. With strong communication, patients can learn how to take their treatments, can ask questions about conditions that are bothering them, and can discuss how they are being cared for. One of the hardest barriers to overcome in healthcare communication is the language barrier. As such, we’ve taken a look at how medical translation services can help you deliver better healthcare.

Why is Medical Translation Important?

If you work in healthcare, medical translation is a service you simply can’t ignore. The importance of medical interpreters was displayed when they played a decisive role in the creation and implementation of government policies regarding health and disaster response and mitigation

According to Medicare and Medicaid Services, a 2017 survey asked healthcare providers to estimate how many of their patients spoke a language other than English at home. 23% of respondents estimated that 21-40% of their patients spoke a language other than English at home. 9% estimated that 41-60% spoke a language other than English, 5% estimated that it was 61-80% of their patients who did so, while 3% of respondents estimated that 81%-100% of their patients spoke an alternative language to English at home.

The wider societal figures help to put this in context. Between 2009 and 2013, about 25 million people in the US spoke English less than very well, according to the US Census Bureau.

Cleary, people who speak another language make up a large portion of patients. And healthcare providers must communicate well with those patients if they wish to deliver the best possible care.

The report from Medicare and Medicaid Services also asked how providers meet the needs of patients who speak another language:

  • Just under 24% said they are contracted with interpreter services.
  • Only 10% said they track language preferences in medical records.
  • Around 16% said they did not know what strategies were used to address language needs.

Large parts of the medical industry have a long way to go in meeting the language needs of its patients, according to this survey.  

Being sick can already be a harrowing experience. When the healthcare providers are difficult to communicate with because of language barriers, it can be downright frightening, as you struggle to understand what is wrong with you and how to treat it. On the provider’s end, it can be stressful not to know if the patient is understanding vital treatment instructions.  

Medical translation can deliver a more comforting experience for patients and a smoother, faster process for healthcare providers.

What Is Medical Translation?  

 An important distinction to start with is the difference between medical translation and interpretation.

Interpretation covers any type of service that converts spoken language as it’s being said. In healthcare, interpreters are often present in the examination room with the patient and the doctor. More recently, due to quarantining and the increased convenience of portable devices, video remote interpretation is becoming more popular in the medical field. The interpreter simply works over a video call instead of in person.

What does translation mean in medical terms? And what is a translation service? Medical translation handles converting written text into another language (or perhaps verbal commentary in the case of audio or video translation). Medical translation may handle documents such as medical bulletins, drug data sheets, training materials, and plenty more. It can include functions within healthcare as well, such as medical device manufacturing, medical marketing, or documentation for clinical, regulatory, or technical needs.

Accuracy is paramount. A mistranslation in the medical industry could have disastrous consequences. It could mean a drug is misrepresented, instructions for using a medical device could be wrong or someone could administer a treatment improperly. As such, decent medical translation services work in several steps to ensure quality:

· Initial communication between the client and translator establishes any medical terminology or meanings that should stay intact in the text.

  • The text is extracted from the original document.
  • That text is then line-by-line translated into the new language.

· An editor typically checks to make sure the translator followed certain medical terminology, overall meaning, and standards within the industry.

  • The translation is put back into its original format.
  • A proofreader looks over the document, checking for larger issues like layout problems.
  • After these steps, the document gets sent back to the client.

This is an example of what medical translation tends to look like. The stages can vary slightly. For instance, larger translation agencies might have multiple people at different stages of the process, whereas a single translator could handle different stages themselves.

The important point to take away is that a good medical translator or agency will have multiple stages of review. They will check the document against approved medical terminology and industry standards.  

How to Find Top Medical Translation Services

Because medical translation is so important, you need to make sure you are sourcing and vetting your medical translation service well.  

A top way people find translation services is to ask around their professional network. If people have had a good experience with a translation service, they may be inclined to recommend it. You might also search online. Either way, make sure a medical translation agency is at the top of its game by checking that: 

  • The website is professional and modern.
  • The agency or translator has some way to prove they are experienced through portfolios of past work, client testimonials, or references.
  • Your point of contact is timely and detailed in their communication; they should be able to outline quickly their whole process for assuring quality reviews, for instance.
  • The agency or translator is knowledgeable about industry standards and medical terminology for their type of translation work. For example, certain ISO types for medical device manufacturing.
  • The translator has some type of professional development, such as a degree in translation, volunteer work, internships, or agency work, and that they belong to a professional organization for translators and/or are certified.  

By properly vetting your medical translator, you can better assure that the translation you get back will be accurate and comply with industry standards. This is key to driving up standards for non-English speaking patients across your healthcare provision.

Ofer Tirosh is the CEO of Tomedes. He is an author who focuses on linguistics and the importance of foreign language in globalization and localization.