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The Human Factor in Medical Document Translation

Mar 17, 2021

Translation accuracy is essential for all materials, but life sciences translations have increased potential for life-or-death outcomes. Though machine translation technologies have improved significantly in recent years, for demanding applications like medical document translation, there is no substitute for human involvement.

Medical Document Translation Types and Uses

If there is a wide range of materials, machine-powered translation tools can process large volumes of information quickly to obtain the general meaning of a piece of content. This may be adequate for general materials like internal company communications.

However, most life sciences translation projects feature specific information that must be translated correctly and consistently or risk harm to patients or increased liability for the company. Informed consent forms, instructions for use, drug labels, clinical trial documentation, medical devices, pharma applications, hospital/clinic documents, or other applied healthcare settings are all examples where medical documents require scrutiny by experienced human translators.

Linguist Subject Matter Expertise

Linguists involved in medical document translation projects should possess specific expertise in the field. At Morningside, we only hire experienced translators who can demonstrate a proven medical translation background. Many of our linguists possess more than medical translation expertise – some have worked directly in healthcare or were formally educated in the medical field. This level of specialized skill ensures that the linguists we assign to life sciences translations already possess deep knowledge regarding the subject, context, and nuances of the project.

Sometimes linguists with experience in specific therapeutic areas can be especially important to a medical translation project. Translators with experience related to a specific type or category of disease or condition (ex. cardiology, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, etc.) play an important role in ensuring correct translation.

Industry certifications further demonstrate controls to promote translation accuracy. ISO 17100 certifications ensure quality standards for translation companies, while ISO 13485:2016 applies to quality management systems for medical device companies. Morningside holds the above certifications, as well as ISO 27100, which ensures Information Security – a particularly important designation when protecting valuable IP in life sciences.

These certifications demonstrate the comprehensive quality protocols we maintain to support our human linguists.

Regulatory Expertise

In addition to experience in the specific aspect of the medical field or final application, linguists may also possess specialized regulatory knowledge essential for successful medical document translation.

Each country’s ministry of health is responsible for establishing language requirements for packaging, inserts, instructions for use, and more. In-country linguists who are familiar with local regulatory practices and requirements provide an additional level of protection against language inaccuracies that could result in censure or require expensive re-printing.

It’s also common for medical document translation projects to include an In-Country Review (ICR) cycle, where the customer’s in-country teams review the content against their company’s style and branding guidelines, as well as for accuracy and regulatory compliance.

Peer Review and Correct Formatting

Due to the complex requirements for life sciences, medical document translation requires a minimum of two experienced linguists, often more. As a baseline, Morningside assigns at least one translator and one editor to each medical translation project.

For more critical content, such as CRO clinical trial documents, we implement additional quality steps like linguistic review in-context and format layout. Format-heavy applications, such as labeling, packaging, instructions for use, and medical device inserts incorporate additional QA steps. We review language and layout, ensuring no information is cropped out or formatted in a way that may confuse or mislead end users.

Our team’s expertise with graphic design, technical authoring, and eLearning applications ensure a full turnkey service solution for our clients. Though desktop publishing tools are an integral part of the document translation process, technology alone cannot perform the task of ensuring information is complete and correct. This is a skill that can only be performed by human translators.

Revealing Errors in Source Text

Human translators can also play a valuable role in identifying mistakes in the source text with potentially adverse consequences. For example, if the source text incorrectly reads “used test strip,” instead of “unused” test strip, the translations will also be incorrect. Because there was no spelling or grammatical error in the text, a machine would likely overlook the mistake. Only a human translator could recognize the original text’s typo through the context of the material.

Spotting errors in the source text allows the company to make swift corrections before the incorrect text is translated into multiple languages.

Work with Experienced Medical Document Translators

When selecting the right translation company for your project, always opt for a partner with specific, verifiable experience in medical translation. Some companies offer medical document translation services but possess little practical experience in this highly specialized sub-set of translation services. When the stakes are this high, there is no room for error or inaccuracy. Choose a translation company that truly understands the final end-use for each document.

Want to know more about what sets our medical document translation process apart? Contact Morningside today, and we’ll show you how we’re different.

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