The Vital Role of Professional Translation and Interpretation Services in Healthcare

Working with foreign language speakers can be challenging without adequate translation and interpretation support. In some sectors, professional translation and interpretation can make a huge difference on both sides of the conversation. Healthcare is probably the most notable example. In some cases, the accuracy of medical translation can literally mean the difference between life and death.

We understand these concerns better than most. Our experience with our clients at The Language Doctors has taught us many valuable lessons about the importance of professional language services in healthcare. Let’s take a look at the main considerations you should keep in mind.

The Importance of Clear Communication in Healthcare

Communicating in a healthcare environment leaves no room for ambiguity. You have to make sure that everything you say or write down has been translated and checked for validity. Considering the time-sensitive nature of most interactions in this sector, revisiting previous work is rarely an option.

The language used in medical work is very specific and full of unique terms and jargon. Because of that, straightforward translations are preferred, because otherwise the clarify of the final work is impacted negatively. 

Healthcare translation work also frequently relies on building on past projects. That’s another reason to prioritize working with someone who can bring clarity to the table. Otherwise, you can get entangled in different versions and revisions. In the end, this can significantly degrade the quality of your documentation and other translated work.

Risks Related to Inaccurate Translation in Healthcare

Inaccurate translation can have a much more pronounced impact in healthcare compared to other sectors. It doesn’t matter if you’re working with patients, study participants, or other physicians. You have to make sure that you’re working with a translation and interpretation service provider that you can trust.

Some people tend to underestimate the importance of professional translation services in general. We’ve recently put out a whitepaper with our thoughts on the topic – feel free to check it out!

What exactly could go wrong due to poor translation/interpretation quality in healthcare though? Let’s take a look at some specific examples.

Inadequate Treatment

The most obvious potential problem that could arise from improper translation is inadequate patient care. This can manifest in multiple ways:

          Patients receiving wrong instructions for self-care

          Incorrect medication dosages being prescribed

          Or even, a completely unsuitable medication

          Pending issues that never get resolved because they were not communicated properly

          Incorrect patient hand-off procedures when working with other physicians

All of those are clearly problematic in their own ways. But what’s worse is that some of those issues can potentially threaten the lives of patients.

Some seemingly simple translation tasks also hide unexpected challenges in the healthcare sector. For example, translating medication names requires in-depth expertise. 

Inability to Provide Informed Consent

Informed consent plays an important role in healthcare. There’s an implicit sense of trust between the treating physician and the patient. That trust partially relies on the patient being able to understand their situation and to provide consent for treatment procedures.

With a language barrier between the patient and their doctor, this can be difficult or even impossible. Patients might be too scared to consent, because they don’t understand the implications fully. Or, alternatively, they might provide consent where they would typically not want to. At The Language Doctors, we always prioritize clarifying those points to the patient when involving direct communication.

Legal Issues

The healthcare sector already has a problem with frequent lawsuits. The system rarely gives people alternative options. When a patient’s treatment was mishandled, suing the provider is usually their only recourse.

Things can get even worse if the patient doesn’t completely understand what’s happening. If a patient doesn’t speak English, there might be some additional requirements to observe. Physicians may find themselves in violation of regulations if they don’t facilitate access to translation and interpretation services.

This partly relates to the point about informed consent from above. But it’s a separate issue that you need to evaluate on its own. One mistake in this area can cost a lot for your institution. And all it takes to cover yourself is to make sure you’re working with a translation/interpretation company that’s fit for the job. We are well aware of the challenges we can anticipate on that front. With the help of The Language Doctors, you can stay ahead of potential legal issues.

Poor Patient Experience

Last but not least, the overall experience from the patient’s perspective will often suffer from language issues. It’s always important to make patients feel comfortable and reassure them at every step. When someone is unable to communicate their needs and concerns properly, they will never be at ease during their treatment. This can then spread to other potential patients through word of mouth.

What to Look for in a Healthcare Translation and Interpretation Service Provider

With that in mind, it’s essential to understand what to focus on when searching for the ideal translation and interpretation service provider. You should spread your search across several main factors: flexibility, experience, and communication.

Flexible Schedule

While you can get away with delayed communication in other fields, that’s rarely the case in healthcare. In many cases, you’ll need to respond immediately, or request additional information from a patient urgently. This means that there’s no room for compromise with the flexibility of your translation and interpretation service provider. Focus your search on someone who can provide you around-the-clock support.

Relevant Experience

Experience in a specific field is something else that can improve the quality of translation work. The healthcare sector is very diverse in terms of different specializations. You will sometimes need to work with a translator or interpreter with specific background in a certain field. 

At The Language Doctors, we’ve worked with numerous clients from different fields over the years. We’ve also developed a unique in-house system for approaching these situations. Our process involves extensive additional checks to ensure the validity of our work. And with our coverage of over 200 languages, you’ll hardly find a more competent partner in general.

Modern Communication

Translation and interpretation services can benefit a lot from a modern approach to communication. Clients often expect remote availability, including for actual interpreting work. This should not be a problem when working with a reliable translation and interpretation company. And once you get into the groove of working that way, you’ll appreciate the immediate availability and other perks that come with this style of collaboration.

How We Can Help

If you’re looking for someone who fits all the above criteria, you’ve come to the right place. The Language Doctors is a translation and interpretation service provider with extensive experience on the market. We’ve worked with clients from various sectors, including healthcare. And we’re constantly exploring new opportunities for improving our business, especially on the technological front.

We’re also one of the only service providers on the market certified to work on government projects. Even if you’re looking for something more advanced and comprehensive than the average service package on the market, don’t be afraid to reach out to us. We’d also be happy to work out an individual deal with you if our predefined services don’t meet your criteria!

Closing Thoughts

Now that you know what the common challenges involved in healthcare translation are, you can start your search with confidence. Make a list of criteria that matter the most to you, and start going through different companies on the market. Once you’ve identified someone who potentially fits the bill, you should be ready to answer some questions on your end. The interview will be a two-way street. That’s the only way you can ensure that you’re purchasing the service which is a good fit for your requirements.

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