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The Complexities of Medical Records Translation Services

The Complexities of Medical Records Translation Services

For any client investing in professional translation, quality is understandably a core concern. You invest in translation, and the expected return on such an investment hinges on the quality of the document translated and how well it represents and conveys the original content.

But when it comes to medical records translation services, looking for quality translation becomes more than a priority for achieving a good return. It is a challenging and highly important task to ensure optimal patient care and compliance with regulations.

In this blog, we will explore with you what makes medical translation challenging for both clients like you and translators alike and explain why collaborating with a professional medical service provider is a must for guaranteed quality and technical accuracy.

What You Need To Know About Medical Records Translation Services

Medical records translation services specialize in translating patients’ medical records from one language to another.

This type of medical translation service is essential for healthcare providers, clinical research organizations, and professionals within the insurance and legal sectors who cater to patients and individuals with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds.

So, what content do these services usually cover?

Well, medical records translation services are dedicated to translating various types of content found in patients’ medical records including (but not limited to):

  • Medical History
  • Diagnostic Reports
  • Treatment Plans
  • Discharge Summaries
  • Consultation Notes
  • Consent Forms
  • Insurance Documents

Did You Know

What Makes Medical Records Translation Challenging

On one hand, dealing with highly specialized medical terminology, strict regulatory standards, and privacy protocols as well as urgent turnarounds requires translators to possess far more than bilingual abilities. And here, the big challenge is to navigate such difficulties and deliver flawless and compliant translations.

Meanwhile, clients, too, face their own set of challenges in selecting a translation service provider, given the significant legal implications tied to the accuracy of medical documents.

Below are more details on the challenges involved in translating sensitive medical records.

  • The High Risks of Medical Records Mistranslation

Perhaps one of the most challenging facts about medical translation of all types is that one single mistake can lead to terrible consequences, let alone mistakes in medical records that guide critical health decisions.

An incorrect detail in a diagnosis, overlooked symptom, or mistranslated medication can dramatically impact treatment plans and outcomes. What may seem a minor mistranslation mistake to a translator could completely alter the course of a patient’s care, medical procedures, consent, and more.

Potential Risks associated with inaccuracies & poor quality medical records translation services:

  • Misdiagnosis & Health Complications
  • Poor Clinical Outcomes
  • Non-compliance
  • Questions of informed consent
  • Legal/ethical concerns.

At the same time, medical professionals and associated organizations have a clear legal obligation to ensure patients receive accurate, comprehensive medical information via translation if needed. Failure to do so opens the door to malpractice claims should issues like miscommunication result in injuries.

Potential Risks of Mistranslation In Medical Records

  • Confidentiality Concerns

The healthcare industry has seen the largest number of lawsuits filed by individuals over personal data breaches. Of the 58 data breach cases initiated in 2021 across all sectors, 43 were brought against healthcare entities – far more than any other industry.

Nothing more than such shocking numbers shows how huge the responsibility carried by entities responsible for handling patient health records is.

Being governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), they must not they protect confidential data within their own systems, but also be extremely careful when choosing to share or outsource this sensitive information to a medical record translation service provider. It’s critical to make sure they uphold the same standards of strict confidentiality.

Did You Know?

The Healthcare sector comprises 23% of lawsuits due to data breaches — far more than any other industry.

  • The Highly Specialized Medical Language

Medical content has very specific and nuanced language that can vary significantly from general language use. Given its nuanced technical nature, medical records translation services need to be handled by professional translators with highly specific skills.

Unless the translators selected are both native speakers of the target language and experts in the medical field at hand, several issues can be anticipated. Translators without native target language fluency and domain proficiency may struggle with tasks like

  • Ensuring consistent use of terminology
  • Maintaining terminological precision
  • Cultural Competence
  • Contextual Understanding

Anything less than matching language and medical expertise increases the chances of mistranslation and with it all the complications we listed before.

Now the question is, how challenging is the medical language? To answer this question, let’s see together why medical content is so challenging to translate in detail. Understanding the challenges will definitely help you in selecting ideal translation partners.

  • The False Friends

False friends are words that appear similar in two languages but have different meanings. This creates major risks in medical translation.

For example, “intoxicated” in English refers to being drunk. But the Spanish “intoxicado” means poisoned or infected.

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  • Eponyms

Medical terms are often named after the person who discovered them. Eponyms like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease do not translate literally. The translator must apply the correct equivalent term.

  • Acronyms and Abbreviations

Medical acronyms and abbreviations seem straightforward but can also conceal complexities. For instance, “RA” means “rheumatoid arthritis” in English. But in Spanish, “AR” is used for the same condition “Artritis reumatoidea”

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  • The Use of Affixes and Combining Forms 

Though small, translating prefixes like hyper-, suffixes like –itis, and combining forms like arthro- incorrectly risks miscommunication of critical details. Diagnosis or treatment decisions based on inaccurately conveyed terminology could then lead to improper patient care.

4. Bridging The Medical Comprehension Gap

Another challenging thing about medical records translation services is that the translators must bridge very different levels of domain knowledge between expert and lay audiences. Communications between providers, legal or clinical organizations and the lay individuals involved require simplifying complex terminology and a more conversational tone for clarity.

  • For example, a doctor may refer to “hepatic encephalopathy” on a chart note. But when explaining the condition to a patient, the translator would render it in plain language as “brain disorder due to liver disease.”

Since the essence of quality medical translation services is facilitating seamless comprehension between parties, it all depends on the translator’s ability to translate accurately while minding this comprehension gap.

  • Navigating Cultural Nuances

In addition to all of the previously mentioned challenges associated with medical records translation services, cultural differences add an extra layer of complexity for medical translators.

Healthcare terminology and the understanding of medical concepts can vary greatly between regions due to differing cultural norms and practices, which requires that medical records translators have an acute sensitivity to these differences to preserve the original intent and ensure full comprehension of information.

To give you a simple example of how challenging it can be to translate medical content even for English-speaking individuals from different regions, look at the word “Jab”. While it is a common British term for a shot or injection (To inject (someone) with a vaccine; vaccinate) it typically means a sting or poke in American English.

 But it’s not only about medical terms. 

Drug names especially pose challenges when translating them across cultures, as a single medication may be known by multiple names globally like Lipitor in the United States which is commonly known as  Atocor in India.

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While medical records translation is challenging, there is no need to panic if you have the support of an expert medical and life sciences translation company.

At AsiaLocalize, we have got your back, giving you access to the most qualified and skilled subject-matter experts, assisted by the most advanced translation tools and the strictest quality control processes. No matter the complexity of your translation project, we will translate with the highest quality and the fastest turnarounds.

We have helped thousands of healthcare providers with error-free medical certificate translation, medical report translation, doctor note translation, patient guides translation services, and more.

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