Context is King in Health Care Translation

When it comes to choosing the right pharmaceuticals translation agency for your project, it’s important to be clear about what type of translation you need. There is perhaps no field where getting the translation perfect matters more than in health care. But misinformation during the ordering of translation projects can cause confusion and lead to mistakes.

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Avoiding these mistakes, however, is easy as long as you use the proper terminology and provide the appropriate details to your language service provider. Let’s discuss some tips for avoiding misunderstandings related to healthcare translation services.

Common Misunderstandings

 In many cases, misunderstandings in health care translation occur because a translator may not have the context she needs to create an accurate interpretation. While it may seem like a tiny detail, context can make a huge difference.

Here’s one example of a translation gone bad: the English term “mild dementia” had been translated into German as “moderate dementia” on a patient’s medical record. As a result, the doctor prescribed an inappropriate treatment for the patient.

Unfortunately these types of errors are not uncommon due, in part, to the complexity of medical terminology. But besides making sure to hire highly specialized language experts from a trusted pharmaceuticals translation agency, you and your team can do a lot to make sure your translator gets the needed context.

1. Form a Team

Whether you engage your pharmaceuticals translation agency on a project-by-project basis or have a long-term contract, it helps to designate a translations team to spearhead the effort. That team could include in-house or outsourced editors, attorneys, and proofreaders. But it should also include your translator and project manager.

As your product evolves, your translator’s work will develop. If you make changes with your translator and form a partnership with her, this will make the end result better. Having a team who works well together with your translator can provide her the context that she needs to make the content better. Strong collaborative teams produce amazing work.

2. Define Your Audience

 We all know how important it is for your business to define your target audience. This is also crucial for health care translation services. When hiring a pharmaceuticals translation agency, it’s always smart to look for one that employs native speakers in your target language. Of course, if you follow this advice, your translator’s ethnic background is likely to be different from many on your team, so her cultural awareness of your audience may also differ from what you are used to.

The best way to avoid confusion here is to describe your target audience to your translator in a clear way so that she can understand and provide a better interpretation. Keep in mind that the tone required for a group of clinical researchers will be very different from the tone required for a group of average patients. Make sure to point out any relevant traits about your audience to your translator.

3. Allow Time to Get to Know Your LSP

 As with all cases of outsourcing in business, there will be a bit of a learning curve while your team gets used to working with your translator and vice versa. Having patience during the initial engagement is key.

The best way to ensure that you get over this initial hump is to allow adequate time before your deadline. Extend the project’s deadline further than you anticipate, leaving time for correcting errors. One thing is certain: a rushed translation job will cost you more in the long run because you will need to spend more correcting mistakes with your pharmaceuticals translation agency. So, make sure to use a systematic approach: plan, prepare, produce, and edit.

4. Understand What Type of Translation Services You Need

 Finally, you can give your translator all the tools she needs to deliver a quality translation as long as you understand your project well enough to describe the type of document you are looking for.

In health care and life sciences, especially, specifying the type of document can be tricky. It is a good idea to draw a distinction between medical translation services and pharmaceuticals translation services, for example.

Types of Medical Translation Services:

  • Medical research literature translation
  • Scientific journal article translation
  • Medical contracts
  • Medical records translation
  • Mental health evaluation forms
  • Clinical protocol translation
  • Informed consent forms and other clinical trial forms
  • Patient recruitment materials for clinical trials
  • Training manuals and videos for health care providers
  • Reproductive health literature and other patient informational literature
  • Brochures
  • Data sheets
  • Bio-chemistry reports (vaccines)
  • Autopsy and toxicology reports
  • Case report forms (CRF)
  • Instructions for use (IFU)
  • NDA and IND
  • Patient information documents
  • Quality of Life (QoL) measures
  • Medical training manuals
  • Regulatory documents
  • SAE and SOP procedures
  • Software and hardware
  • Corporate websites and portals

Types of Pharmaceutical Translations Services:

  • Drug registration document translation
  • Instructions for use (IFU)
  • Package inserts and labels
  • Prescriptions
  • Data sheets
  • Drug reports
  • Pharmacological study reports
  • Drug production manuals
  • Corporate websites and portals

While some original documents may be straightforward and your translator may have worked on similar documents many times before, other custom projects may require additional explanation. Never be afraid to offer too much information. Even if a detail seems irrelevant, it could offer the context that your translator is looking for.

If you would like to discuss your health care translation project with a trusted pharmaceuticals translation agency, Alpha Omega Translations is here for you. Call us today at 703-768-2535, email us at, or request your free quote.

Alpha Omega Translations is a proud member of the Globalization and Localization Association (GALA). We partner with GALA to help businesses develop language resources, training, and opportunities for growth.

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Category: Translation Services

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