January 6, 2021

The importance of translating medical records

Sharing information across language barriers has been a key part of medicine since ancient times. In 2020, we’ve seen this in action for ourselves amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s something that’s now facilitated by the World Health Organization.
At a more local level, translating medical records can help to benefit the patient experience where there is a language barrier. Some patients move around a lot, and they can be the most vulnerable and most in need, requiring a great deal of sensitivity during appointments and consultations.
Medical translations are essentially life and death translations, meaning the utmost expertise, knowledge and professionalism is vital.

Why Translate Medical Information?
Medical information is arguably the most important of all. In appointment settings, telephone interpreting can provide a quick fix, but face-to-face interpreting can be more suitable for delivering sensitive medical information.
It’s not enough to rely on a friend or family member to interpret, as this can compromise patient confidentiality, and can be a major issue in cases where there is a risk of abuse.
Translating medical information doesn’t just help to improve the patient experience, but it is also a legal and ethical responsibility for healthcare providers, under the Equality Act and the Accessibility Information Standard.
Aside from being a legal requirement, finding an effective way to communicate with all patients should be a given, regardless of whether there’s a language barrier, in order to deliver an outstanding level of care.

Medical Information to Translate
Medical information that can be beneficial to translate includes:
  • Prescription labels
  • Medical consent forms
  • Discharge information
  • Medicine usage information
  • Medical pamphlets

Medical Translation Challenges
Doctors’ handwriting is notoriously illegible. But on a serious note, medical information is often jotted down in a quick scrawl, using shorthand, acronyms, abbreviations and improper sentence structure, so translators working with medical documents need to be able to decipher this.
There can also be a lot of complex, sometimes untranslatable, language in medicine. Translators working in this field therefore need a good understanding of anatomical, biological and pharmacological terminology in order to translate medical records, documents and patient information effectively.

The Patient Experience
Patient experience needs to be the most important factor for healthcare providers; a positive patient experience can help to put patients more at ease and increase their overall understanding, which could potentially lead to better outcomes.
THG Fluently can help you to find out what your patients think of the experience you’re offering, by providing access to patient experience questionnaires in a variety of languages. Sourcing feedback in a patient’s own language can enable you to see where further improvements to the service may be needed.
At THG Fluently, we’ve been providing specialist translation services to the medical and healthcare sectors for more than 17 years. In that time, we’ve built an expertise in this particularly technical area of translation and interpreting, and have supported organisations both public and private across the world. So if you’d like to learn more about how we can support your business with expert medical translation services, feel free to get in touch.

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