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Importance of Medical Translators in Today’s Setting

In hospitals and related fields, medical translators are essential in helping ensure the health of the people and the industry as well. While someone with a high school diploma can become a medical translator, they often seek higher education to advance in their careers. Most of them receive certification from organizations such as the American Translators Association (ATA) and other certification-giving organizations accredited with the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Those who are aspiring to be medical translators must have an in-depth knowledge of medical terminology and should be fluent in a language pair. Experience in the medical and healthcare fields is an advantage.

Medical translators take care of converting the diagnoses and advice of doctors, written patient information, informational materials of hospitals and healthcare facilities, and pharmacological instructions. Not all medical translators handle work from healthcare institutions and drug manufacturers. Some are employed in companies manufacturing medical devices.

They do not assist healthcare professionals or patients in a doctor’s office. They ensure that complicated medical concepts and terminology are relayed in simple terms to patients and other individuals. They should understand cultural sensitivities when translating medical documents. They should be HIPAA-certified and follow the guidelines for data security and doctor-patient confidentiality.

Differences between a medical translator and medical interpreter

Although both are part of language services, the two disciplines differ. Translation handles written text, while interpretation deals with the spoken word.

Medical translator

The medical translation should be 100% accurate. It is vital when clients request the translation of different medical contents such as packaging information for the pharmaceutical industry, production information leaflets, and patient case reports.

The service also handles package labels and inserts, production manuals, pharmacological studies, regulatory documents, scientific journal articles, protocols, manufacturing process descriptions, clinical protocols, and clinical trials.

A medical translator should have the technical knowledge, such as a background in the healthcare and medical field. Aside from that, a medical translator should have knowledge about local laws and regulations, since most countries set rigid rules about medical procedures and medicine approval. An error can mean delays or non-approval of permits to sell certain medicines in the target area.

Medical interpreter

A medical interpreter acts as the bridge that connects the healthcare providers with patients to ensure the two parties who do not speak the same language can understand each other.

A medical interpreter should have an in-depth knowledge of medical terminology in a language pair, as the interpreter needs to translate from two languages. Likewise, medical interpreter should have the training to understand the patient’s facial expressions and body language when explaining the patient’s symptoms. This skill helps the doctor to diagnose a patient accurately. Further, they should have the ability to understand how people speak, as some may be using slang and regional dialects.

Medical interpretation services can be done on-site. Users can also avail of over-the-phone interpreting (OPI), and video remote interpretation (VRI).

Why do you need a medical translator?

Due to cultural diversity, language is the most common obstacle. The gap is more prominent in the healthcare setting. When there is a proper understanding between doctors and patients, the healthcare outcomes improve.

  • Medical translators help healthcare workers to provide quality services to patients who speak foreign languages. They translate medical histories, consent forms, medical records, and insurance claims.
  • Research laboratories use the services of medical translators for the translation of clinical research and trials, patents, and licensing information and agreements. Manufacturers of medicines and medical devices employ medical translators to prepare catalogues, instructions and manuals in different languages.
  • Quality and accuracy are needed in medical translations because life may depend on it. Medical translations are a premium service that requires experience and expertise. Medical translators are experts in the subject matter, and many of them specialize in different fields, from general medicine to surgery.

Their work is precise, accurate and of high quality, because they are elite translators, and because they observe these rules:

  • It is unacceptable to have an error in medical translation as it can cause complications. They cannot substitute, omit, add, or exclude anything.
  • Mistranslations of medical information can lead to further injury or even death. Healthcare facilities are required by law to use professional medical translators. Even bilingual nurses and doctors are not allowed to translate medical information or document.
  • Translating for the pharma industry needs to be exact, as inaccuracies and wrong translations have legal implications.
  • Errors in translation can lead to disapproval of medication authorizations.
  • Research results should be faultlessly translated. Errors can lead to research failure or loss of research funding.

What are the roles of medical translators in health and social care?

In trying times, such as what the world is experiencing right now, people who are not proficient in English are not likely to receive the much-needed information regarding the health risks. This fact leads to disparities in healthcare dispensation.

Amid the pandemic, the public and healthcare authorities must learn from the mistakes in the past. COVID-19 can infect anyone. In the United States, the bulk of cases are in New York, Washington State, and California. In the latter, some 200 languages are spoken, and the language gap challenges about seven million California residents. Among these linguistically challenged residents, the highest proportions are people who only speak Spanish or Asian languages. The situation in Washington State and New York is almost similar.

What disturbs authorities is the fact that people who are not proficient in English are more at risk of contracting the highly infectious virus because of their work. Most of them are in janitorial and service jobs in hospitals and hotels. Many employers do not grant them sick leaves with pay; therefore, they still report to work even if they are sick. Most of them live in poor, overcrowded communities where social distancing is nearly impossible.

Healthcare institutions recognize the need to disseminate information about the coronavirus in different languages. New York City’s Department of Health is going to translate materials about COVID-19 in seven more languages. It will work with all the local agencies to make sure that the translated content will reach all residents of New York who are not fluent in English.

Tampa, Florida, Boston, and South Carolina are just some of the other areas that are having these outreach materials translated into several languages.

Medical translators are ready to help. Concerned agencies have to work with professional translation agencies that have expert medical translators to ensure that health information about COVID-19 and other healthcare issues reach people with low proficiency in the English language.

Even with the increased efforts in informing people about the pandemic, there are still selected areas where the information and dissemination are limited. Some of the places are Greenville, South Carolina, and Boise, Idaho.

Aside from utilizing the services of medical translators, all concerned agencies should collaborate with media outlets, social service organizations, and other groups to develop and distribute health information about the coronavirus for people who do not speak English.

eTS medical translation specialists are here to help – Partner with us!

At eTranslation Services, our HIPAA-certified and expert medical translators are ready to work on your medical translation requests immediately. They are native speakers who have long years of field experience in the different branches of science and medical sector. We guarantee the work of our translators and we always aim to provide technically precise, accurate and correct medical translation. Send us a message at [email protected] or call us at (800) 882-6058.


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