Best Practices

How to successfully make a medical document translation

When people talk about translation, they usually do not think about medical document translation. That is mainly because of the complexity that revolves around translating such content due to the complexity of the language used.
Rodrigo Demetrio
2 min
Table of Contents

When people talk about translation, they usually do not think about medical document translation. That is mainly because of the complexity that revolves around translating such content due to the complexity of the language used.

Although medical document translation is one of the most challenging - yet important - aspects of translating documents, it goes unnoticed by many professionals and brands. This is a particularly serious issue when we discuss the World’s post-pandemic scenario.

That is because telemedicine is becoming wildly popular - in fact, according to a Mckinsey, telemedicine usage is now 38 times the size it was before march 2020. It is important to remember that this category of medical care blurred the lines and borders across countries. Thus making medical document translation an even more relevant matter.

What is medical document translation?

Medical Document Translation is a niche-type of translation, where an expert linguist works translating documents in the healthcare area. However, being niche does not mean that it is not a broad field. Contrary to popular belief, this type of translation is not used only for prescriptions, but also for charts and notes, case reports, government material, legal disclosures, research documents, as well as insurance and medical notifications. Therefore, a medical translator can work in a broad range of environments, that go from companies specialized in research to doctors or patients. A linguist specialized in medical translation can also work in the educational area, as he or she will be able to translate pamphlets and public health announcements on the subject.

The risks of a poor medical document translation

A translated medical document leaves not much room for mistakes, since it can impose grave danger to the patient if not done correctly.Although it varies - the risks can go from poor healthcare to serious injury or even death -, the stakes are always higher when we talk about medical document translation than when compared to other areas of translation.

How to successfully translate a medical document

Translating medical documents is not an easy job. More than only being fluent in a certain language, the person who specializes in medical content translation has to be familiar with medical terminology and jargon, among other requirements. Hence, an expert medical translator has many challenges ahead in his or her journey. Below you can find some tips to master this art!

Be up to date with medical terms and trends

It is essential to be up to date to the latest medical terms when translating a medical document. It is equally important to know the latest medical trends, such as medical devices and other healthcare technologies. Remember: medicine is an area where small differences in terminology can mean completely different things. That way, the person who will translate a medical document should be familiar with what the terminology means not only in the source language, but also in the target language. Similarly, it is also important to understand medical  abbreviations and acronyms, once those are used by many healthcare professionals.

Localize your content

Even though this is a highly specialized area, a medical document translator has to think about it’s target audience when translating a document. If you will be talking to patients, for example, the language used can be fairly less formal than if you are translating a research or material directed for professionals in the area. This also goes for terminology and other aspects of the writing that must be adapted for each audience. The localization of translated medical content is also related to aspects such as the format of the date on the document, if metrics or imperial units are used, and other cultural aspects of language. The goal is to make the document as “understanding” as possible - thus conversions may be done in order to achieve this.

Leave no place for assumptions

Medical translation is a field that requires 100% accuracy from the professional. Therefore there should be no place for assumptions once the translation is being done, especially because healthcare is not a segment that deals mainly with facts. Avoid being ambiguous when translating - unless the original document adopts this tone of voice. Another tip for medical translators is to keep details as clarified as possible.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

When we are talking about medical document translation, the professional should not be ashamed to ask questions or even ask for help. Since it is a field that can not afford mistakes, it is better to ask questions to doctors or specialists in the area than making translation mistakes. As the saying goes, “it is better to be safe than sorry”.

Prepare in advance

As with most things in life, people who prepare in advance will do a better job. If possible, try to get in touch with specialists,companies and/or patients before starting to translate medical documents.

Proofread the translation

It is very important that the work continues even after the translation is done. That means that the professional translator should take it’s time to proofread the material, making sure there are no mistakes in the material.

The matter of privacy

Since medical documents are private in many cases, it is important for a translator to keep a professional attitude. This means that he/she will not be allowed to share the entirety of the document with other people, or even mailing it back and forth with the client or any other parts. Preferably, the platform in which the translation will be done should be encrypted in order to certify the client’s privacy. This is particularly important if we talk about pharmaceutical firms, as corporate espionage imposes a genuine threat to it. Medical document translation, when done properly, can improve many aspects of the healthcare area either for professionals or patients. Due to the nature of this type of translation, only highly capacitated linguists should be hired for the task. Bureau Works offers the best medical translation software for you to bring your innovations to new markets and improve lives all over the world. Contact our team to learn more about our unique localization platform.

Rodrigo Demetrio
Steering the marketing ship at Bureau Works with 17+ years of MarTech under my belt, I transform mere ideas into tangible realities. Passionate about languages and their power to build bridges, let's build a new one?
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