There’s no doubt that public healthcare, such as the services of the NHS, should be as accessible as possible. This is especially important in multinational communities, as language is often a serious barrier preventing the proper provision of medical services. Fortunately, both public and private health care providers can employ qualified medical translators and interpreters.

What distinguishes medical translations?

Medical translation is a type of specialized translation on par with technical and legal translations. All medical documents include specific terms and vocabulary, such as names of diseases, procedures, or even seemingly simple things like names of body parts. For example, most of the terms used in English are derived directly from Latin (e.g., names of bones), while in other languages they can be completely unrelated, which adds to the communication chaos. Thus, if anything gets mistranslated, it can cause serious health or even life hazard. This is especially true for various groups of drugs (e.g., blood pressure regulators or antidepressants). This means any healthcare-related documentation should be handled by professionally trained translators, while interpretation services should be employed when dealing with limited or non-English-speaking patients. Interpreters can work in-person or via phone calls.

Medical translations are used for written materials such as:

  • Certificates and reports
  • Clinical study agreements
  • Clinical trial protocols
  • Device manuals
  • Drug specifications
  • Fitness products manual or instructions
  • Health care leaflets
  • Hospital discharge letters
  • Informed consent forms
  • Instructional video transcripts
  • Instrument guides
  • Internal medical correspondence
  • Investigator information brochures
  • Lectures and presentations of medical companies
  • Standard operating procedures
  • Study progress reports
  • Patient diaries
  • Patient information leaflets (PILs)
  • Patient reported outcomes
  • Professional training materials
  • Public health campaigns materials
  • Public health education materials
  • Questionnaires
  • Scientific publications
  • Software user guides
  • Summaries of product characteristics (SmPC)
  • Toxicology reports
  • Websites

Please don’t hesitate to read our post on why you shouldn’t use Google Translate for medical translation – it’s a real eye-opener.

Why are interpreting and translation services so important in healthcare?

Transparency and accuracy of communication in hospitals and other health care facilities are a vital part of their services. Any shortcomings in spoken or written transitions between languages can lead to misdiagnoses, increased expenses, inadequately informed consent, ineffective or inefficient treatment due to inability to follow its plans, repeated visits and readmissions. That last issue alone can be responsible for at least half of a hospital’s admissions and 60% of its expenses (according to an article by M. Hasan). By adapting interpretation and translation services, NHS facilities can save a lot of money – both in operating costs and potential lawsuits.

Due to the language barrier, limited English speakers often neglect their health problems and seek professional help only after an emergency, as they fear miscommunication on their part. Plus, without interpreters and properly translated documents they’ll most likely return to the emergency care sooner than other patients, raising the readmission rate. Moreover, without effective in-language communication, patients from this group are more prone to miss their appointments, which in turn increases the so-called ‘Did Not Attend’ (or DNA for short) costs. These expenses are estimated to cost the NHS over £400 Million per year. This problem can be greatly negated by using telephone interpreting services or employing an on-site interpreter.

female doctor reading documents at office desk

Another important part of this branch of the translation industry are clinical trials translation services, as almost 3/4 of clinical trials are currently conducted overseas. It’s one of the most complex types of translation, as both the trial regulations and subjects of the trials require impeccable transitions to other languages. Even the smallest mistake (e.g., a typo) can invalidate the whole endeavour, and, e.g., prevent the procedure/drug from being used in a given country despite being proven safe in the original trial documentation.

For more information on clinical trials, check our post titled What do we really know about clinical trials?

How to pick a valid NHS translator?

Due to the nature of healthcare, any employed translator and interpreter must be an expert not only in wielding his mother language and the target language, but also possess in-depth knowledge of the industry’s inner-workings  and its unique vocabulary.

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This narrows down the pool of potential candidates to a cadre of specialized professionals that dedicated their career to the language part of the medical field. The easiest way to find this type of individuals is contacting a professional and reputable translation agency. If you’re in need of safe and competent translations of medical documents from/to Polish, TEXTOLOGY is just the place for you.

We provide a wide scope of specialized translation and language services, including proofreading already translated documents, audio transcriptions, website localizations, and terminology management. All of our translators are native-speaking specialists that can tackle even the most elaborate commissions, ensuring highest-quality work, clear communication, and safety of limited English patients. We guarantee full confidentiality of our work – any sensitive data or personal information entrusted to us won’t reach third parties or the public.