The importance of translating for medicine, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare
Medical translations involve an extremely diverse range of materials and formats, which are addressed to both the professional and general public. Aside from translating medical documents that help ensure patients are provided with adequate healthcare, translators also work with drug registration documents and texts for medical devices and tools.
What types of documents fall under the umbrella term of medical translations?
- clinical studies
- doctor’s notes
- scientific papers/academic publications
- textbooks for students
- documents for medicine marketing authorisation applications
- package leaflets for medicinal products
- instructions for medical devices and tools
- medical software
- articles from academic journals
- medical reports and findings
- documents for treatment abroad (referrals, waybills)
- certificates of professional competence
- and more
Medical translations were also proven to play an exceptional role during the pandemic. Translators and interpreters played a key role in disseminating information people were yearning for in difficult times in order to protect their health. Humanitarian workers who were helping the most vulnerable groups in areas of great linguistic diversity also had access to information in lesser-used languages thanks to translators’ efforts.
When every word counts
The criteria for assessing good medical translations are more stringent. Translating texts for healthcare requires much more than just a knowledge of the foreign language that the document is being translated in.
Most importantly, the translator must be an experienced professional who possesses knowledge in the medical field and can apply their skills in the translation.
While in other sectors, the source text can be paraphrased to some extent, translations in healthcare require terminological accuracy and precision. Documents that help doctors assess a patient’s health and suggest further treatment or that enable medical staff to properly connect a patient to a life-saving medical device all require a clear and unambiguous translation.
The particularities of translation in healthcare
- When people’s health is on the line, there’s no leeway to talk about the quality or professionalism of a translation because these traits are to be expected of it. It’s also a given that the overall result considers cultural relevance, which is why medical texts also employ localisation. For example, in English, we know 3 different terms for one diagnosis.
- The diversity of medicine, which is divided into a number of disciplines and specialisations, is another factor that needs to be taken into account. Finding an experienced translator who has in-depth expertise in a specific area is a really challenging task. But thanks to a wide network of translators, we can ensure the translation goes to a doctor-translator that specialises in the required field.
- Medical translations are often a source of important information for the protection of human health. It’s therefore important to adapt the level of expertise so that the text can be understood by the reader. The translator, therefore, needs to know the purpose of the text in order to adapt the level of expertise and language to the right audience. Various operating manuals for medical devices as well as clinical studies for doctors or researchers require a different translation style than materials used for commercial purposes or for educating the public.
- Some types of documents, such as drug registration dossiers, package leaflets, and medicinal product labels, have well-defined legislative requirements for their translation. These requirements are defined at a European level by the European Medicine Agency (EMA) and, in Slovakia, by the State Institute for Drug Control (ŠÚKL). It’s also possible to meet all legislative requirements and ensure the accuracy of the materials in cooperation with a translator with legal specialisation.
Strict protection of sensitive information
Health condition information falls under sensitive data that is subject to confidentiality. The key task is to ensure a guarantee of confidentiality at all points of contact in the translation cycle. For this purpose, it’s standard practice for a translation agency to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with the client and for translation suppliers to sign an NDA with the translation agency. It’s also standard practice for us as well. Additionally, we also use encrypted communication to ensure maximum data protection when transferring sensitive data to our translators.
Standard or sworn translations of medical texts
Translations of healthcare texts are most often requested by the authorities of a particular institution or office, or by an individual for personal use.
For official purposes, including filing an insurance claim with a foreign insurance company, it’s necessary to request an official translation (certified/sworn translation) of the document. This will attest that the translated document contains the same exact information as the original. Sworn translations with a stamp can only be performed by a sworn translator appointed by the Ministry of Justice of the Slovak Republic; clients most often turn to experienced translation agencies with this request.
An unofficial translation without an official stamp is sufficient in cases if, for example, you want to provide a medical report or a finding from a foreign examination for your medical records, or if you’re planning to consult with a doctor for treatment at a foreign clinic where you’re under no obligation. In this case, it’s a translation that’s purely for your own personal use and doesn’t serve as an official document.
There’s no room for error
It’s important you entrust translations of sensitive materials into the hands of experts that you can rely on. When human health is at stake, you need to make sure that the translations are done accurately and that they use the right terminology. Therefore, there’s no tolerance for error in medical translations.