A Guide to the Medical Translation Process

A Guide to the Medical Translation Process
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For medical translation projects, there are two competing concerns: efficiency and quality. Clients want a fast turnaround for as little money as possible, but the life-or-death nature of medical translation makes even minor errors unacceptable. How can we design a medical translation process that minimizes time and cost to the client, yet still meets regulatory standards and ensures accuracy?

Balancing these goals takes careful consideration and planning during each stage of the medical translation project. No computer program can ensure your message comes across clearly and accurately as well as a skilled human translator can, but using technology appropriately at each stage can streamline the process.

Preparing your Language Project

The preparation stage lays the groundwork for the project. Efficiency begins here; mistakes made in this part of the process can be expensive and time-consuming to correct later. Both vendor and client have roles to play.

The first step is to define the scope of the project, including what needs to be translated, the desired target languages and any applicable regulatory requirements. These factors influence how the translation workflow will be structured. Next, depending on what’s being translated, the product may need to be localised to support all target languages. Many languages include diacritics (like accents, tildes and umlauts), and fields for addresses and phone numbers may need to be altered to accept different formats.

Clients can help streamline this process by providing documents in an editable format, such as files produced using a word processing program.  The harder it is to edit the original document, the more time it will take to get it ready to translate. If your team is producing content that will need to be translated, also direct them to keep image captions editable instead of embedding text inside the images.

An important part of the preparation process is the creation of a glossary of key terms to be used in the translated document. This ensures consistency in the final product and helps reduce editing costs caused by inconsistent terminology. For accuracy’s sake, the glossary must be validated by a native-speaking expert in the appropriate medical field before it can be used.

Medical Translation

Once the product is ready for translation and the glossary has been validated, the translation team can get to work. The exact steps in the translation process depend on a number of factors, including what is being translated and applicable regulatory requirements. The initial forward translation may be done by one translator working alone or by two translators working separately, with the two versions “reconciled” to make a “best of” translation. Larger projects often require additional translators.

Translation Memories Improve Speed and Accuracy

Translation memory software can make this process more efficient right from the start, as frequently used words and phrases are translated in context with the project. These translations can then be reused, improving efficiency as more phrases are added to the memory bank.

Quality Control for Medical Translation

After the initial forward translation, the translation vendor will undertake a number of editing and quality control procedures to ensure the original message comes through as clearly as possible in the target language. Depending on the project, these may include:

  • Editorial review for accuracy and consistency.
  • Back translation and reconciliation.
  • In-country review by a validator who is both an expert in the field and a native speaker of the target language.
  • Patient questionnaires and product testing in the target language.

Some quality control procedures carry a hefty price tag. For example, consider back translation, in which a document is translated back from the target language into the source language to check for discrepancies. This adds a significant amount of extra work and expense. Some in the translation industry consider it a useful quality control measure, while others believe the benefits are not clear enough to justify the additional cost. Regardless, for many medical translation projects, this is a necessary step, as it is often required by IRBs for clinical trials and by various regulatory boards for items like marketing materials and packaging.

At K International, our translation consultants will work with you to determine the most appropriate quality control steps for your specific project and to carry them out as efficiently as possible.

How Technology Can Streamline the Process

Technology can streamline the medical translation process in a number of different ways. First, as discussed above, the use of translation memories cuts down on the amount of work required and helps ensure a consistent finished product. It should go without saying that the original translation used to create the memory must be correct. Garbage in, garbage out and if your organisation isn’t working with a top-quality translation company you could waste a good deal of money tracking down and fixing the same translation mistake over and over again.

Second, technology can improve ease of communication between the vendor and the client, which is absolutely critical to improving efficiency. At K International, our clients have access to our own bespoke in-house translation project management software, Tracklingua.

Tracklingua is custom-built for translation projects and can be easily customised to integrate with existing client software programs, systems and workflows. With Tracklingua, we offer improved efficiency and accuracy right from the start of every single project. Requesting a translation is as easy as uploading a file, forums and messaging make it easy to communicate with the team of experts assigned to your project, and our “Library” feature makes it easy for everyone involved to find relevant documents like manuals and terminology glossaries. Additionally, Tracklingua integrates with translation memory software memoQ to maximize the potential of computer-assisted translation.

In medical translation, improving efficiency while ensuring accuracy comes down to the following:

  • Use a trusted translation company who will get your project right the first time.  K International is trusted for medical translation projects by global pharmaceutical companies, the British Army and the NHS.
  • Choose a vendor who can reduce indirect costs by integrating with your company’s workflow. At K International, Tracklingua improves efficiency and cuts cost every step of the way.
  • Use an effective quality assurance process to ensure an accurate end product. Our quality control procedures are ISO 9001:2008 certified.
  • Use translation memories to reduce unnecessary repeat translations. By integrating Tracklingua and memoQ, K International maximises the potential cost and efficiency savings using translation memories.
  • Choose a vendor with a top-notch project management process. In this regard, our expert team of translation professionals and the Tracklingua project portal are a winning combination.