Medical translation can do much to make healthcare more accessible. One of the largest barriers in healthcare access is language. People who don’t speak English well can struggle to navigate the complicated healthcare sector, full of life-saving instructions delivered in complex medical language. But with medical translation services, that barrier is no longer so daunting. Below, we’ll look at how medical translation can help make healthcare accessible to everyone.

The Role of Medical Interpreter

When it comes to medical translation, you’ll often see the translation and interpretation of the word used interchangeably, yet they are different disciplines. The role of medical translation is to convert written text from one language to another. Interpretation handles converting spoken language, such as conversations between doctors and patients in real-time. Many translation agencies can also help fulfil the role of medical interpreter, with Ofer Tirosh, CEO of language service provider Tomedes, pointing out that they might offer both services. It can be convenient to find a service like this so that it’s less of a headache to access the two disciplines separately when you need them.

Most people know about having an interpreter present in an ER or doctor’s office, but medical translation is a lesser-seen service. What does a medical translator do? Medical translation converts important documents like instructions, medical bulletins, drug data sheets, and training materials into another language.

Why is Medical Translation So Important?

Around 95% of the British population is monolingual, speaking only English. This is a far higher rate of monolingualism than is seen across much of the world.

At the same time, 1.3% of the population in England and Wales cannot speak English well, and 0.3% of the population do not speak it at all. That accounts for 864,000 people. That’s a lot of people in need of the best medical translation services.

A mistranslation in the medical industry could be a disaster. It might mean a misrepresented drug, instructions for an important medical device being wrong or someone following a course of treatment improperly because of mistranslated instructions from the doctor.

Medical translation services ensure the quality of a medical document in a number of ways. The process often includes these steps:

  • The first step is the communication between the client and the translation company, which may establish medical terminology or meanings that should stay the same.
  • The text gets extracted from the original document.
  • Then the text is translated into the new language.
  • An editor may check to make sure the translator kept medical terminology, industry standards, and the overall tone and meaning intact.
  • Then the translation gets put back into its original format.
  • A proofreader often looks at the document at this stage, making sure larger issues like layout stayed the same.
  • Finally, the translated document goes back to the client.

The process may look different between agencies and individual translators. However, a common theme is that a decent translation service will include multiple stages of review. This is to maintain the integrity and accuracy of the translated document. This is especially important in the medical field, where medical terminology must mean the same thing in the target language than it does in the original.

Video Remote Interpreting of Medical Language

One of the easiest modern ways to make healthcare available to everyone is video remote interpreting, often called VRI for short.

VRI connects people who aren’t physically present, using digital video. With how accessible portable devices like tablets are and how high-speed internet has made video more reliable, VRI is an easy way to make sure an interpreter is “present” at all times. It’s especially useful in doctors’ offices and hospitals.

VRI is fairly easy to find. Many well-known interpretation agencies now offer the service. VRI has especially grown since the pandemic, as it allows interpreters to interpret live conversations without risking infection.

How to Find Medical Translation Services  

Most people look online for medical translation. You might search a local keyword to find one in your area, like medical translation UK. Some people also ask around their personal or professional networks, which might be a good way to find services that come pre-recommended.

Once you do find medical language translation services, it’s important to check their background. Medical interpreters, for example, tend to come certified through a professional organisation, which is a good way to make sure they are trained and are skilled enough to pass an exam.

Check that the interpreter or translator has a professional background. They may hold qualifications in the foreign language they translate, have extensive work experience, or have received on-the-job training. You might also want to review past client work through portfolios and client testimonials.

When talking to prospective medical translation services online or in person, prepare questions to ask. Pay attention to how the contact replies. Replies should be detailed, professional, and forthcoming. For instance, you might ask: how much does it cost to translate a document? Medical translators often charge per word; approximately £0.10 to £0.16 per word is common. The service should be able to offer a direct and detailed answer to their costs. Also, ask how they ensure accuracy with medical terminology. There should be multiple stages of review in place, like the steps we outlined above.

By making sure you vet your medical language translation service, you can better assure a positive medical translation experience, with professional and accurate translations.

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