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Quality Control for Life Sciences Translations: How to Minimize Risk

Aug 11, 2021

Quality life sciences translations can literally save lives. It might sound hyperbolic but accurately translated product inserts, IFUs and other medical documents help end-users safely use products as intended. And, of course, the flip side of that is that low-quality life sciences translation can result in 483s, product recalls and adverse events, including death. The stakes are high.

So what can you do to minimize risk when working with your translation services partner? Here are some proven strategies to ensure accuracy and consistency throughout your life sciences translation projects.

Start with standard language

Your source documents’ language provides the foundation for your translated materials — make sure it’s solid. English, for example, is full of deeply ingrained idiomatic phrases that make it easy to forget that there may be no direct translation into a foreign language.

Review your source materials closely before beginning your translation project, checking for references and phrases with no direct foreign correlation. It may be necessary to develop a “pre-translation” document that varies slightly from your original text to ensure what you pass to your translation services partner conveys the intended meaning as clearly as possible.

Developing this internal pre-translation style guide will provide consistent instruction on how to prepare documents for translation. Your translation services partner can help.

Internationalize your documents

Keep in mind that some items may not be language-related, such as the formatting of dates, addresses, and phone numbers. Additional things we see in life sciences translations that require adjustment before translation include country-specific references such as SSN (social security number), symbols, acronyms, abbreviations, test grades, school grade levels, and more.

Reduce your chances of error or time-consuming corrections by reviewing your document before translation and highlighting region-specific language that should be changed.

Define your audience

Your life sciences translation partner can reduce the chance of errors and ensure your materials resonate with your target if you define your audience at the outset of the project. For example, many international teenagers incorporate English phrases into their vernacular. Translating these phrases may not be necessary and may even create confusion for end-users.

Pay close attention to who will ultimately engage with your materials. Patient-focused life sciences translations should not exceed a sixth-to-eighth-grade reading level. Alternatively, medical professionals expect a certain level of technical vocabulary, so it’s important to preserve that level of diction.

Look for ISO certification from Language Service Providers

ISO certifications indicate that an organization’s services and business processes have been independently audited and meet or exceed international best standards or practices. So, look for a language service provider certified to ISO standards – especially ISO 17100 , which is specifically for translation companies. This certification ensures “requirements for the core processes, resources, and other aspects necessary for the delivery of a quality translation service that meets applicable specifications.”

Other important ISO standards to look out for include ISO 9001, which establishes standards for maintaining a Quality Management System (QMS), and ISO 13485, which specifies QMS standards for medical device companies.

Ask about your translation partner’s quality management process

Every translation company has a different quality management process. To minimize risk and nonconformances in your final product, inquire about their process before you engage. A good translation partner should be able to outline their process clearly. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How much experience do you require for linguists?
  • Do your translators possess any ancillary life sciences experience (ex. medical professional experience, life sciences degree, etc.)?
  • How many translators will review each document?
  • Do you use termbases/glossaries/other Translation Memory tools?
  • Do you possess current ISO certifications?

Dont rush the process

Controlling the quality of your finished product should permeate the entire translation process. Rushing through the process opens the door to errors that can be costly or time-consuming to correct. Always incorporate plenty of time for thorough review after each round of translation refinements to catch and correct details.

Quality control is the final layer of protection to ensure translation accuracy — minimizing risk means taking it seriously.

Work with experienced life sciences translators for your next project. Contact Morningside for a quote.


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