The Differences Between Health Care, Medical, Life Science, and Pharmaceutical Translations

Even when medical professionals, healthcare providers, patients, researchers and insurers speak the same language, miscommunication can result. The reasons for miscommunication vary from terminology and generational differences to differing goals and outcomes as well as cultural perceptions and expectations. Sometimes, even the simple lack of shared knowledge will result in confusion. The fundamental difference between health care, medical, life science and pharmaceutical translations lies in the audience that is receiving the information and the individual that is providing the information. An intimate knowledge of audience expectations and needs is essential in flawless communication. At ISI Language Solutions, our years of experience have guided us to review some of the main differences between translations across the health and medical fields. These observations serve as a guide to help our clients distinguish one translation service from another.

Health Care Translation Prioritizes Patient Needs

Healther care translations are patient-centered. Unlike interpreters who engage in spoken exchanges between health care providers and patients, health care translators spend their time translating the written word. They are the individuals who ensure that non-English speaking patients exit a health care facility with follow-up instructions and care plans that are written in their preferred language. Such translations serve to provide patients and their providers with the tools necessary to administer effective treatments and engage patients.

Translators play a vital role in this scenario and therefore, must have an in-depth knowledge of medical terms and fluency with the source language. They also need to translate medical terms into the everyday language of the target audience. Superior translations take patient anxiety, provider assurance and comforting language into account. Health care translations make use of idioms, regional expressions and cultural touchstones. For these reasons, artificial intelligence-generated translations are not capable of providing patients with the levels of compassion and care that culturally competent, fluent translators can provide.

Medical Translation Prioritizes In-Depth Medical Knowledge

Though the roles of health care translators and medical translators may seem to overlap, there is a serious distinction. Like health care translators, medical translators must pass a series of tests that evaluate fluency in at least two languages. Translators must be fully aware of, and adhere to, privacy policies and compliance measures. Unlike patient-centered translations, a medical translators’ source documents are created by medical professionals and their target audience are medical professionals. In the case of medical translators, knowledge extends into a deep understanding of medical knowledge, not simply terms. Medical translators must stay up-to-date on medical practices and new techniques. They must also have familiarity with medical practices and processes in countries other than the United States. Medical translators are capable of translating patient medical records from one language into another in ways that appropriately and accurately provide geographical context to medical practices.

Life Science Translation Prioritizes Clarity

Rather than focusing on patient comfort or nuanced cultural differences in medical practice, life science translations prioritize clarity of methods and dissemination of academic and research knowledge. These translations must appeal to academic audiences, biotechnology experts, medical device developers and others who demand attention to detail, high-level methodology descriptions, and a rigorous replication of data and interpretation. Life science translators are fluent in at least two languages and have earned high-level degrees in the fields for which they translate. In addition to these specialized skills and knowledge, life science translators must also be certified and are held accountable to stringent regulatory guidelines.

Pharmaceutical Translation Prioritizes Global Accessibility

Drug development companies and clinical research organizations are consistently expanding into new markets. Pharmaceutical translations assist these organizations in gaining entry into new markets by providing clear information that not only meets regulatory standards but provides regionally relevant information to regulatory agencies, clinical trial participants, pharmacists, providers and patients. Each point in the research process requires accurate and expedient translation. Experienced pharmaceutical translators produce translations that clarify risks and address regional concerns thus decreasing the likelihood of misunderstandings that could lead to lawsuits or adverse effects. In addition, experience has shown that superior translations increase brand trust and time to market.

Of course, translations across all disciplines and practices must be accurate, clear, culturally aware and compliant with regulatory guidelines. However, understanding the priorities of each translation service assists during the process of choosing a translator, translation service or language specialist.

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