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What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Medical Document Translation?

Various sectors need medical translations, including clinics and hospitals, medical device manufacturers, medical research organizations, universities, medical book publishers, and pharmaceutical companies.

Medical translation requires subject matter expertise and field experience. Some organizations require certified medical translators to handle their translation requirements.

Considerations for medical translation

A person who is uninvolved in the medical field will find it hard to understand the medical language even if it is available in English. Medical language is full of complex subject matter and clinical terminology. Thus, it requires attention to detail, precision, accuracy, and writing expertise.

Adding to the complexity are the unique terminologies that may have different spellings in other languages. Further, medical abbreviations can have different arrangements and meanings in various languages.

Each medical document is unique and the target users differ as well, meaning each document may require a distinct medical terminology and jargon. For example, physicians may read the results of clinical trials, so the translator can use complex medical language and terms. A prescription is for pharmacists and patients. Thus, the language is simpler and easier to understand.

As the subject matter is complex, medical document translations need subject matter experts. Because of their experience in the field and further training, they can easily grasp the meaning of jargons and medical terminology. They can choose the correct terms to use according to the document’s context.

Medical document translation works with different word registers. For example, physicians and nurses will understand the term thorax. But for patients, the better term to use is the chest. Translators need to know the target audience of the translations so they can choose the most precise term.

Can I translate my medical report?

Medical translation is the most heavily regulated segment of the translation industry. It needs subject matter expertise, certification, and experience in the specific fields. Therefore, the answer to the question is no, you cannot translate your medical report.

The regulation is a preventive measure, to ensure the translation is precise, accurate, and objective. You can compare this to the rule that prohibits physicians from treating their family members.

Why is medical translation important in healthcare?

Medical professionals work diligently to ensure their patients get the best medical care. With the laws and regulation that the federal government imposes, patients who are not fluent in English, or do not speak English, can still access medical care and other services. We are talking about providing medical translators (and interpreters). Documents that patients will use should have translations in several languages. Healthcare facilities must have signs and reminders advising non-English speaking patients that translated documents are available.

Healthcare facilities need medical translation services to make medical documents easier to understand, like discharge summaries, mental status examinations, medical test reports, and medical histories.

For example, a patient visiting a non-English speaking country needs emergency medical treatment, like surgery. Because the patient cannot provide his medical history, the hospital can request a translated copy of the patient’s medical history from his physician. With it, the physician attending to the patient in another country can provide the correct treatment, including the required medicines.

Advantages of medical document translation

Technological advancements and low-cost travel have allowed people to have medical treatment and care in foreign countries. Doctors and other healthcare providers and patients can communicate with one another through their translated medical documents. Medical translation is important to new immigrants, and patients who need medical care while in another country.

While undergoing treatment, the patient may need signing various forms. These forms should be in a language the patient can understand, which may include consent forms (for medical procedures), post-discharge instructions, medical device labels, prescription, and drug usage information.

Medical document translation helps disseminate information. Medical practitioners can avoid guesswork and concentrate on treating the patient based on the patient’s medical history. Patients will understand the medical procedure better.

The doctor can avoid committing errors. The healthcare provider will know critical information about the patient, like allergies, what medication to avoid, past and current health condition and other pertinent information. The information will help the attending doctor to provide the right medical treatment.

Professionals can provide accurate service. Healthcare facilities employing medical translation services can be sure their medical documents contain all the relevant information, using the correct terms that ordinary people will understand.

Disadvantages of medical document translation

Many medical documents have special terms and concepts that may not have a corresponding equivalent in other languages. Terms, acronyms, and abbreviations can appear different, according to the source language, which may cause confusion.

There could be regional differences in the way people use terms and treatment. The medical translator must also learn regional variants of standard languages.

They need to fit their translation to the target users’ level of comprehension. For example, abrasion means a scratch or scrape. Asphyxiation means suffocation, while the armpit is axilla in medical terms. Contusion is a bruise. Deciduous teeth are milk or baby teeth. The acronym DED refers to dry eye disease, and doctors call indigestion dyspepsia. If you’re having a nosebleed, the doctor will note it as epistaxis. Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) means dry eyes.

Medical translations must pay extra attention to details. They have to be precise in their translation because medical translations involve human lives. The slightest mistake has serious repercussions.

Not anyone can be a medical translator. The individual must have years of experience in the medical field. The person must have specific training and certification in medical translation. They should be an expert in a specific field, aside from being fluent in the source and target languages.

We are ready to handle your medical translation needs

With years of experience and different subject matter expertise, our highly trained and native-speaking medical translators here art eTranslation Services are HIPAA-certified. We can easily connect you with one of our professional medical translators wherever you are. Please email us at or call us at (800) 882-6058.


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