Archive for Karen Donovan

Online Language System (OLS)

Tools That Support Translation Centralization Efforts

As companies quickly grow, communications can often become scattered. Long term, this disconnect can lead to fragmented processes and efforts throughout the various internal departments and/or groups and reduced visibility from the top down on what the company is working on as a whole and the resources available. It also means that groups may have limited access to information from other departments which can cause internal errors, inconsistencies and duplicated efforts. In the translation world, both duplicated efforts and inconsistencies in the way information is shared and created can significantly increase translation costs.

VIA has created an online Portal that departments can use to centralize translation efforts on one platform to increase visibility, so as not to duplicate efforts and keep a close watch on overall translation budgets.  VIA’s Online Language System (OLS) allows clients to receive estimates in real time and track all orders made through various departments. The OLS Portal is a great way to manage translation centralization efforts; keep track of previously translated materials, manage translation budgets and save time on the estimating and translation process.

For more information, please visit our website at

Happy Friday,


Flu Vaccinations and Ethnic Disparities

There has been a lot of media attention about the flu this month – with good reason – by all reports this year’s flu outbreak has been particularly severe. As of last week, forty-eight states reported widespread geographic influenza activity. Looking at the CDC’s published statistics on flu cases requiring medical care – including hospitalizations and adult and pediatric deaths – it’s clearly important to communicate the need for seeking appropriate care as well as relaying the message that it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

It’s especially important to communicate this message across all cultures and communities, and to do so at the appropriate health literacy level. Racial and ethnic disparities in immunization rates continue to persist even as health plans and Medicare cover the cost.

Research has shown several factors are associated with low flu immunization rates including cultural and linguistic barriers that limit access to care, living in linguistically isolated areas and newer immigrant destinations, consumer lack of awareness about the need for the vaccinations, and consumer fear that the vaccines will cause severe illness.

Keep in mind that cultural adaptation as well as localization plays a role in consumer/patient education. Partnering with a professional language service provider that specializes in the U.S. healthcare market is a good way to ensure vital health information resonates with culturally diverse communities. Regardless of a populations’ language, location or culture, prevention of the annual flu is one of the many areas where effective communication can have a significant impact on public health.


Knowledge Is Power; Make It Stick

The Benefits of E-learning and Gaming

I had a great conversation with a Manager of Diabetes Education that really got me thinking about the accessibility of information for patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP.) One key point really stood out to me as she mentioned that if the proper materials were not available in a form patients could readily understand and feel comfortable with, they were less likely to seek care outside their primary care group, even if a visit to a specialist was required. It has been a challenge for this organization because their training materials are not always provided in all of the requested languages and are not easily accessible to large groups of patients and patients who live offsite. Furthermore there are consequences in the form of monetary fines if patients continue to return with medical conditions that are not treated properly. All in all, it is a lose-lose situation for all parties involved.

As we warp into a new year of communication advancements, we literally have the world at our fingertips and rapid communication updates in real time; why not take advantage of it? There are several options out there and one major advancement is the ability to provide education via E-learning and gaming modules. E-learning and interactive games are a great way to engage patients and allow them to learn about all available options, understand the risks and required preparation and weigh the pros and cons. With the power of knowledge, patients gain confidence and will more likely take the necessary steps and make the right choices to maintain a healthy lifestyle and/or get the care they need.

I’ve recently been exposed to such E-learning tactics, specifically for laser eye surgery. I was clueless to the differences in surgery options, how the procedure worked, risks involved, how to prepare and the do’s and don’ts after surgery. The clinic e-mailed a link to their detailed informational overview on their e-learning platform that included animated visuals of the procedure, voice explanations with written queues and even allows patients to take a break after each segment to write questions directly to the doctor. The best part about this approach to education is you can access materials and information anywhere, review everything at your own pace and retention for game-based learning tends to be greater than traditional learning. E-learning and gaming will be beneficial to patients and health groups alike when it comes to long-term patient education.

Until next time,


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You can also request our best practices training and gaming guide.

Enabling Patient Communication and Engagement

As we start another new year bright with promise, most of us most likely have a resolution or two in mind, or perhaps a mental list of things we’d like to accomplish in the coming year both personally and professionally. In the realm of healthcare, chances are many of our professional goals for the coming year are aligned with the path we’ve already embarked on as a healthcare community – improving coverage, diagnostics, treatment and access, minimizing disparities, focusing on wellness and enabling patient engagement to improve outcomes and population health.

Although I haven’t worked as a care provider in a clinical setting, during the course of my career I’ve had the privilege and opportunity to provide services furthering the above. On the flip side, I’ve also had the opportunity to see the complexity of healthcare jargon and healthcare delivery through the eyes of elderly family members. It can be an absolutely terrifying world!

That experience makes me even more passionate about improving healthcare delivery and the patient experience. While a translation provider may not be the first service provider that that springs to mind, we play an important role in healthcare delivery at here at VIA. We understand that bridging the language gap is key to ensuring culturally diverse communities enjoy equal access to healthcare, have the information needed to make informed care decisions and experience optimal quality. We have a passion for helping our customers communicate with their patients across boundaries of language, comprehension and culture.

Best wishes for a healthy New Year!

First Thing’s First

Create a Terminology and Style Guide 

Do you happen to have a large technical document, instruction guide, PowerPoint presentation, marketing piece, e-learning module or website that requires translation? Before you rush out and translate everything, consider a key preliminary step that could further enhance understanding, receptivity and cultural appeal while maintaining brand identity and adding a personal twist.

Since no two writing styles are alike and it is often critical to maintain the company’s visual appearance and “writing style,” terminology and style guides are created before translation and act as a writing guide for linguists and a visual guide for designers. These guides can then be expanded and used for all projects to enhance term consistency and brand identity. For instance, a “scalpel” isn’t a “knife,” nor is the word “stress” always perceived as negative. Certain catch phrases, marketing slogans, graphics and visual design may also need to be tweaked to better fit the target audience.

While it is important to use linguistic experts that have both a command of the target language and subject matter knowledge, terminology and style guides play an important role as well. Companies are able to define the tone of the writing style, ensure the visual appropriateness of graphics and pinpoint key technical terms or terms that have certain connotations and contextual meaning before starting the translation. This allows organizations to avoid costly review and editing cycles later in the translation process if the changes are subjective or preferential.

That being said, it is never a bad idea to establish a style guide and glossary of terminology with your translation professionals well before you dive head first into a translation project for a substantial, technical or otherwise creatively written and designed masterpiece. Chances are what seemed catchy and understood in English won’t be as “translation-friendly” in the target language. Creating a glossary of terms and style guides will help you evaluate and navigate these challenges more thoroughly.

More to come,


“I say tomato, you say tomahto”

Why writing with your audience in mind and using professional linguists matters

Humans, more technically known as “Homosapiens,” possess the ability to create, understand and adapt and apply language not only to get the point across, but to express individuality. It is no wonder that we often forget that what we perceive as “familiar” may not apply or make sense to others, let alone in different languages.

To deviate just a little (and I assure you this example will apply), back in my college days, I once promised a friend I would attend a mechanical engineering mixer. I thought what the heck, it could be interesting and I might learn something new outside my area of expertise. Boy, was I in deep! Before I knew it, I was drowning in unfamiliar terminology and unable to grasp concepts that I did actually have knowledge of, but couldn’t comprehend at the level on which they were being discussed. The other experts in the room were used to this form of communication and had a good command of the terminology. I did not. My point is, if the linguist doesn’t have a solid command of the language AND an educational background in the subject matter they are writing about, chances are, you may not get the result you are looking for or even worse, damage your image or reputation. Furthermore, if you aren’t preparing content with your target audience in mind, you’re bound to veer in the wrong direction and that is when misunderstanding and miscommunication meltdowns occur.

Healthcare content is no exception. I’m sure doctors have to rework many technical concepts to explain them in layman’s terms for patients, as they would also use experts to translate the more technical versions for other doctors to learn about their practices and/or research. Like my example above illustrates, I am clearly not a mechanical engineering genius. Can you imagine someone like me taking a stab at writing an engineering textbook? The same applies in any language.

VIA understands this concept very well as no two projects and writing styles are alike. Legal materials are not equivalent to marketing and you can’t use a marketing linguistic expert to translate a legal contract. As our motto states, “say what you mean.”




November is National Native American Heritage Month

The Department of Health & Human Services announced the theme of this year’s National Native American Heritage Month yesterday – “Native Families Moving Ahead: Together We Strengthen Our Nations.” The focus is on continuing to build healthy families and communities.

At VIA we’re committed to furthering health literacy to help bridge healthcare disparities across all cultures and communities. Reading yesterday’s announcement, I was thrilled to see that IHS reported the Special Diabetes Program has done a tremendous job of fighting this disease by increasing awareness, preventive services and access to treatment in Tribal communities. Diabetes is one of the conditions where awareness and subsequent education and treatment can significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for the millions affected. Historically, Native Americans and Alaska Natives have been more likely to die from diabetes than other racial and ethnic groups. Getting the word out about community access for programs like this is an extremely important step in reaching the goal of healthy communities.

Read more here on Kathleen Sebelius’ statement regarding this year’s theme:


Wellness Month at VIA

Stress and other environmental factors play a huge role in employee satisfaction, productivity and overall sense of well being. At any company, the daily routine and constant workload can be exhausting. In fact, according to the American Institute of Stress, “numerous surveys and studies confirm that occupational pressures and fears are far and away the leading source of stress for American adults and that these have steadily increased over the past few decades. Eighty percent of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help.”

To find a holistic approach to maintaining employee health year round, VIA inspires and motivates employees to participate in a month-long program of activities and seminars that educate and promote a healthy and well balanced lifestyle. Every year, employees team up to compete for points based on the activities they complete. Wellness month is also a time for each individual to reflect and become aware of their everyday lives both mentally and physically, and find new ways to mix things up, get fit and reduce stress.

The agenda for this year’s wellness month included: seminars on nutrition and how to prepare healthy foods, lunch time and after work exercise routines, an outdoor scavenger hunt, “desk yoga,” spontaneous challenges for bonus points and stress reducing mini massages. Participants were awarded 5 points for every event attended, 1 point for every 20 minutes of physical activity and 1 point for every junk food item they gave up for the day.This year, employees earned an astonishing 1041 hours of involvement based on the total event and exercise points accumulated company wide.

Wellness month not only pushed me to be more conscious of my everyday routine, it allowed me to connect with my co-workers and embrace a personal challenge to stay in shape and change up my diet to support a healthier lifestyle. The energy in the office was very high and everyone had a really good time!

Happy health,


References: American Institute of Stress – “Workplace Stress” retrieved from

Speaking Healthcare Blog is Back!

What better month to re-launch our blog than “health literacy” month?  Health Literacy Month is a time for organizations and individuals to promote the importance of understandable health information. Since its inception in 1999, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of awareness-raising events taking place worldwide. Our hats off to Helen Osborne who founded this great effort!

At VIA, our mission is to improve healthcare access for under-served  Limited English Speaking (LEP) communities. Health literacy affects us all. In fact, research indicates that today’s health information is presented in ways that are simply unusable by most adults. In today’s rapidly changing environment, it so important to provide health information that effectively contributes to access, informed decisions, and improved outcomes. We can build our own health literacy skills and help others – community members, health professionals, and anyone else who communicates about health  – and build their skills, too.

We also like to recognize, celebrate and support organizations that are making a difference in the delivery of healthcare to those communities with Limited English Proficiency. That commitment was the genesis of our Healthcare Translation Grant Program, and remains its mission today. With that focus in mind, we were pleased to announce our 2012 grant recipients this week – Providence Hospital in the District of Columbia and Washington Regional Medical Foundation.  We are proud to assist these special non-profit organizations that are committed to improving the health of their communities.

Until next time,