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Is It Illegal for Hospitals Not to Provide Medical Translation Services?

Medical Translation Services

Written by Bernadine Racoma

July 1, 2020

As of 2017, the foreign-born population in the United States was 44.4 million, which represents 13.6 percent of the people, according to Pew Research Center. Based on the 2016 data of the U.S. Census Bureau, about 25.1 million people in the U.S. have limited proficiency in the English language. Immigrants in the U.S. speak around 350 languages. The states with the highest concentration of people with limited English proficiency (LEP) are California, New York and Florida. While the U.S.-born children of immigrant parents can speak English like a native, most of them speak the mother tongue of their older relatives at home.

Most of the non-English speakers and LEPs belong to the older generation, who are likely to require medical attention. The immigrants’ access to insurance and healthcare in the United States is a complicated issue. But the good thing is that today there are laws that protect their rights and provide them with language access mainly in the healthcare setting.

Medical translation service

Several translation companies provide medical translation services. Many specialize in the service, maintaining regular clients in the healthcare and medical insurance sectors. The translations must conform to legal standards and HIPAA requirements. Medical translation requires experienced subject matter experts due to the technical conditions of medical science and its terminology. Medical translators work on different medical and healthcare-related projects, such as medical software documentation, pharmaceutical information, and medical device instructions and documentation. They also translate several other things, such as:

  • medical research
  • clinical trials
  • patient records
  • patient instructions
  • informed consent forms
  • instructions for use
  • drug labels and packages
  • pharmacological studies
  • medical findings
  • independent medical exams
  • standard operating procedures
  • physician manuals
  • medical journals

The role of a medical translator

The role of a medical translator is to convert doctors’ diagnoses and advice, information brochures of hospitals, and other documents such as the list described above, into other languages. Many translators work with medical device manufacturers, while some work for manufacturers of drugs and medicines.

Translators deal with written texts. Medical translators do not assist healthcare professionals or patients in a doctor’s office. Their primary duty is to translate written information to facilitate communication and understanding between healthcare professionals and patients, and healthcare professionals and medical-related companies.

Medical translation demands more from the translators. Aside from fluency in a language pair, the translator must know medical concepts and terminology. They need to simplify and convert complex ideas and instructions into something that the people can easily understand. They should also be culturally sensitive while ensuring that their translations are 100 percent accurate.

They should maintain patients’ privacy and have the responsibility to ensure physician-patient confidentiality.

How do you know if the medical translation is correct?

Accuracy is critical in medical translation. It is vital to ensure that medical translation is correct. Working with a professional translation company, with expert medical translators assures you that you are getting high quality and accurate translation. It is necessary to work with a translation company with years of experience in medical translation and have subject matter experts in different aspects of medical science. Further, the company should have the tools and resources for quality assurance.

What should you know before getting a medical translator?

It can be challenging to find the right company that will handle your medical translation requirements. One of the first things you should do is contacting an industry organization such as the American Translators Association (ATA).

Choose translators who know the specific medical terminology for your particular sector.

Medical translators have individual expertise. They should have linguistic and medical training as well as knowledge in different life sciences.

Make it easier to find the right medical translator for your needs by preparing a detailed brief, which will give the translation company an idea of what you require and what you expect, so that they can match your requirements with their medical translators.

Legal requirement to provide medical translation services in hospitals

Healthcare facilities that receive funding from the federal government, including Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements should provide language access – interpretation and translation services – to individuals with limited language skills. The 1964 Civil Rights Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are the federal laws that require hospitals, clinics and other healthcare institutions covered by federal and state funding to provide language access to LEP patients.

Every state in the U.S. now has language access laws, according to the National Health Law Program, so residents should ensure that they are compliant.

To answer the question – YES, it is illegal not to provide medical translation services.

In 2016, there were two fundamental changes to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act:

  1. Medical facilities should use qualified medical interpreters when they treat deaf and hard of hearing patients and those who have limited English proficiency.
  2. LEP patients can sue healthcare providers who do not provide language access programs.

Failure to provide language access programs is not covered by medical malpractice insurance, although those found guilty can face hefty fines. According to the National Health Law Program, there were 35 lawsuits before that contested issues with language access. One of the largest medical malpractice insurance carries paid $2,793,000 in legal fees and $2,289,000 in settlements or damages for the 35 cases, which equates to an average of $142,857 per lawsuit.

It is not only the legal implications of the failure to provide medical translation services that matter. Patients who do not understand what doctors are telling them are at risk. They stop their medical treatment, fail to take their prescribed medicine or take more than required, and avoid getting medical attention altogether. These issues can become more costly for the medical facility if something drastic happens.

Call eTranslation Services for your professional medical translation needs

Whenever you need professional medical translation services, you can count on eTranslation Services to deliver. With the global medical crisis due to COVID-19, we’re here to help ensure that your patients and the communities you serve to get the right information. We are HIPAA-compliant, and our native-speaking translators are experts in different aspects of medical science, backed with several years of field experience. They are trained and certified, assuring you that you will receive high quality, 100 percent accurate medical translation. You can reach us through email at contact@etranslationservices.com or by phone at (800) 882-6058.

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