Making sure medical localizations shine

Industries, Translation & Localization27 November 20143.4k

Although a number of different business sectors might have been economizing in recent years due to global economic woes, healthcare isn't one of them.

Due to aging populations, a rise in chronic diseases and better access to medical facilities all over the world, the Economist Intelligence Unit estimates that global spending per head in this sector will rise by 4.4 percent a year from 2014 to 2017. As a percentage of GDP, global healthcare spending should average 10.5 percent this year and the outlook for the industry as a whole is viewed as positive.

Glocalization – serving the world

Indeed, according to the Deloitte 2014 Global Healthcare Outlook, the industry is going through a period of 'glocalization' – globalization and localization – as it hurries to adapt products and services for people in specific locales.

And this is presenting a specific issue for healthcare and medical companies: ensuring their products are localized well enough that consumers know how to use them, whatever (from journal articles to blister pack inserts) and wherever they are. 

Here's how your business could make sure any medical-related localization shines – and doesn't end up causing major problems.

Don't let instructions get lost in translation

As we learnt from the very earliest days of internet-based translation services, phrases from one language don't always translate literally from one language to another – and even slight changes or errors can result in huge mistakes and potentially even patient deaths.

Similarly, some words that look like they would translate literally and mean the same word in another tongue absolutely don't. A good example of this is the infamous, oft-cited case of Latino-American baseball player Willy Ramirez in 1980.

He suffered a brain hemorrhage and was taken unconscious to a hospital in Florida. Unfortunately, the doctor heard the word 'intoxicado' and assumed he had overdosed on drugs or alcohol and so treated him accordingly, whereas the word is actually closer to 'poisoned' and required different tactics.

Ramirez was left paralyzed, even though he could have walked out of the hospital with the correct treatment – and a better translator. Imparting the correct information is equally as important in text form too.

Clarity is key 

Medical products need to present information as clearly as possible to avoid accidents such as overdoses, so localization will require experts who can translate instructions succinctly.

Another good point to consider is font – what is typical in one nation might be rarely used in another, and so its residents might struggle to decipher it. 

Beware colloquialisms and jargon

Colloquialisms are very common in the world of healthcare, especially among patients, so it is vital to avoid them during the translation process. For instance, 'blues' may mean depression in some parts of the world, but there is a danger that it could be understood as a person literally being blue in colour elsewhere.

With regard to jargon, many sub-disciplines of medicine use their own abbreviations and so localization will need to either incorporate them or disregard them and turn them into something clearer.

Doctors or translators?

A big issue among brands in need of localization is whether to use doctors to translate medical-related materials or bring in translators who aren't experienced medical professionals.

The former may understand all the terminology but might not be best placed to translate it succinctly, while the latter could run the risk of failing to recognize what is necessary information and what isn't.

A mixture of the two is essential if mistakes are to be prevented when products and services are sent to other nations.

Adhere to the legal rules – avoid omissions

Following on from the last point is the need to identify any data or instructions that are there because of legal requirements.

For example, some patient data may be included in background material but mustn't be translated to appear on the final product. Another case in point is side-effects listed on packets of medication. A translator could assume that they may omit one or two if they seem similar to others, when in reality all must be present to avoid breaking the law.

Medical localization may be a minefield, but it is one that companies will increasingly need to cross if Deloitte's predictions are correct. To avoid errors, it's likely to be well worth learning more about specialized localization services and what they can offer today. 


Are your translation solutions scalable?

As experts in Asian localization and translation services, with more 20 years of experience, EQHO is the ideal choice. To find out more about how localization can benefit your business, or to get started, contact us today.

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