Lenka Šabová

14. March 2022

There's no room for mistakes in medical translations, even one wrong word can spell trouble for you

Human health is subject to constant research, innovation, and the development of new methods and drugs. It's translations in medicine and pharmaceuticals that help disseminate new research findings around the world, giving patients hope for relief from their health issues. But these translations can't be done by just any translator.

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?

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.

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The particularities of translation in healthcare




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.

Lenka is one of our Senior Project Managers and has many years of experience with translation projects. She specialises in more intensive projects with clients in the fields of medicine and pharmaceuticals, which often start with examining and analysing the client's entire InDesign package, which then breaks down into: translation, proofreading, revision of professional terminology, incorporating changes with the proofreader, graphic modifications, and final-eye approval with the client.