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Medical Translators Save Lives

Challenges and innovation for medical translators.

Medical Translators Save Lives

Richard Allenby is the partner in Languagetran, a company that offers splendid language translation services for individuals and corporations. To communicate in Spanish, French and many other languages, visit his site at http://www.language-translation-service.net

There is a quiet paradigm shift happening within the health industry. Medical information is more readily shared each day with the help of the Internet and social networks. On the other hand, however, there are still barriers to this vital communication, including the language barrier.

The amount of medical information that is published every day is staggering. It is estimated that the medical knowledge base doubles every 5 years. The bulk of this information is published in English. So, how does the non-English speaking world benefit from it? We know that many healthcare providers in other countries understand English, but most do not. Similarly, there is medical information published in other languages that can benefit English speakers. Sharing this information and research is vital for healthcare providers around the world.

Enter the professional medical translator. These professionals make it possible for healthcare providers to understand one another across the language divide. Without their services the transmittal of vital medical information would be severely limited, and the improvements to patient healthcare would suffer. The medical world shares new ideas and technologies that help people with everything from disease prevention and treatments to the conveyance of the latest medical technologies by translating medical information into other languages.

The transmission of medical information across language barriers depends largely on the work of these professional linguists.

But given the pace of change, medical translators are challenged to keep up with the deluge of new medical information, terminology, medical technology, medical equipment, and procedures. Take terminology as an example; many times translators are forced to create new words in their own languages to convey leading-edge medical concepts, because these terms do not exist in the target language.

The ability to keep up with these new terms and innovations is a day-to-day necessity for medical translators and one that they must continually sharpen and expand; just as all other health care professions do. There is no question that the task of a professional medical linguist requires knowledge, specialized training and constant updates to keep up with breakthroughs in the health sector.

With the aid of translators and interpreters, scientists in different countries share their research and findings to determine better cures and advancements for new treatments, improvements for medical equipment, and enhancements to existing procedures.

Most important, perhaps, translators often play a critical role in the doctor/patient relationship when they don’t speak each other’s language.

From the consumer’s point of view the issue becomes even more important. Imagine that you receive medical treatment in a foreign country and the doctor gives you written instructions for your care, in a language you don’t speak. This happens every day here in the USA. Thousands of non-English speakers receive medical instructions, drug literature, and medical information in English.

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the practice of some pharmacies of using online translation sites to translate drug information. These translation tools are inaccurate, and there are known cases of people overdosing because of translation errors. There are countless examples of healthcare-related translation mistakes in the USA alone, and these mistakes sometimes cost lives.

Medical translations must be accurate, timely, and above all confidential. Medical matters can directly affect the outcome of someone’s care.

Medical translators and interpreters are a vital link in the healthcare system and they save lives.

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