Archive for June 29, 2010

Access to justice another casualty of poor translation services

As anyone who has read Speaking Healthcare knows, or anyone that has worked with viaLanguage for that matter, one of our key aims is to help ensure that language does not prevent equal access to healthcare for limited English proficient (LEP) patients.

A recent news item underscores that healthcare is not the only arena in which language can prove a frustrating and potentially damaging obstruction. Last week American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a legal brief in the state of Georgia for what can only be considered a dereliction of justice.

In the case in question, a Chinese (Mandarin) speaker was sentenced to 10 years in prison after a trial in which she did not understand any of the proceedings. According to reports, her own attorney failed to request an interpreter for fear of delaying the trial or annoying the jury.

And it’s not an issue unique to the U.S. Countries from Australia to South Africa to Korea are seeking to improve their legal interpreting standards and services. In Ireland, the Irish Times recently revisited a 2003 case in which a Mongolian man did not understand the reading of his rights, a breakdown that led to a review of standards that by the paper’s assessment has produced little benefit.

What seems clear is that just as challenges remain to ensuring equal access to healthcare for LEP patients, so too are their language barriers to an equal access to justice. The upside is that both failings can be easily rectified: It’s simply a matter of delivering effective translation services.

Good health!

How to translate working with communities into giving back to them

At viaLanguage, we like to believe that at its heart medical translation, and in fact all translation, is really about building community. That’s what effective communication makes possible. So, I guess you could say we sort of have a community-minded focus just by virtue of the work we do.

Looking at it this way, it makes sense that we would feel a natural desire to give back. And I wanted to take this post to formally applaud all the people at viaLanguage, and beyond, who find the time and make the effort to do that during the year. Cheers to all of you!

Are you looking for some philanthropic ideas for your company? Here are few organizations and efforts we support:

Humane Society – viaLanguage donates one paid day to each employee to support their favorite non-profit. The company also offers an annual team volunteer opportunity. This year it’s the Humane Society—because pets are also part of the community!
Operation Cornbread – viaLanguage supports Sisters of the Road Café in Portland, Ore., as part of that organization’s annual matching program, Operation Cornbread, which keeps food coming to the needy during the peak summer months.
• Annual Translation Grants – We offer in-kind translation grants for organizations reaching out to limited English proficient (LEP) communities, both Healthcare and K12.
Heifer International – We provide annual support to a needy family by purchasing and donating a cow. Learn more about this unique program in an earlier post.

As the Oregon Lottery once said, though I paraphrase, “Your odds of winning are 550,000 to one—significantly higher than if you don’t play.” And it’s the same with making a difference. Act and you can help.

Good health!

A hearty good luck to the translators at this year’s World Cup

We spend a good deal of time and energy in our discussions here exploring the challenges that go along with medical translation. And there are many to be sure; our world is only growing more heterogeneous and complicated. But sometimes it can be reassuring to remember that other industries face even greater translation challenges.

This occurred to me in reading about the World Cup currently under way in South Africa. Just consider for a moment that this event, the largest sporting spectacle in the world, is comprised of teams from 32 nations, with 350,000 on-site fans, 500 million more watching on TV, and by some estimates more than $3 billion in media and marketing revenues.

I began to imagine the sorts of heavy lifting necessary to ensure that all the various audiences, with their unique languages and cultures, enjoy equal access to accurate, up-to-date information about the games. South Africa alone has 11 official languages!

A recent post on the Global Watchtower blog identified just a few of items on what must be a very long list. Needs include signage, website localization, translation of tourist brochures, press announcements, voice-over, and on-site medial translation support. The official World Cup website itself is available in six languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish, and Portuguese).

So, if you ever feel overwhelmed by your medical translation demands, just remember: It could be worse. J

Good health!

Smart phones becoming a key tool for patients—and medical professionals

If you thought that smart phones were the exclusive province of the technorati and teenagers, a recent whitepaper released by the California Healthcare Foundation suggests that health care is also avidly embracing the new devices.

Entitled “How Smartphones Are Changing Health Care for Consumers and Providers,” the paper illustrates just how eagerly the industry and public are incorporating and using these evolving handheld tools. It also identifies the most important emerging usage trends.

According to the report, two-thirds of physicians and more than 40 percent of American consumers used a smart phone in 2009. Meanwhile, the numbers of phone applications related to health and health care is growing to keep pace. The paper reports that as of February 2010, the Apple AppStore offered about 6,000 apps, 73 percent of which were meant for consumer or patient end-users, 27 percent for health care professionals.

Apps targeted at physicians include the following:
• Alerts
• Medical reference tools
• Diagnostic tools
• Continuing medical education
• Patient records programs

Consumer-oriented apps include:
• Medication compliance
• Mobile and home monitoring
• Home care
• Managing conditions
• Wellness/fitness

While issues like privacy remain to be worked out before the technology is likely to achieve widespread adoption, healthcare professionals and their patients are clearly interested. Might they be right for your practice or organization? To learn more, read the entire California Healthcare Foundation whitepaper.

Good health!

Pharma put on notice as FDA enlists doctors to patrol for ‘bad’ ads

A recent program begun by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “deputizing” members of the healthcare industry, while rankling the pharmaceutical and marketing industries. Calling it the “Bad Ad Program,” the FDA is asking doctors and other healthcare professionals to report ads and promotions that run afoul of FDA rules.

The inspiration behind the effort was to help root out inappropriate sales pitches made by pharma reps to physicians, in other words violations the FDA cannot see. But the program scope is actually broader, inviting medical professionals to report “bad” ads to the Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising, and Communications (DDMAC) anonymously via e-mail.

According to the DDMAC, the initial phase of what is intended to be a larger program focuses on educating healthcare personnel about what makes a compliant ad and what the DDMAC can do. Later phases will apparently offer more detailed examples of what to look for.

Critics of the effort dismiss it as ill-conceived. They see it as little more than an understaffed FDA’s inability to monitor and respond to the enormous amount of advertising and marketing material generated to support prescription medicine. Others point out that, because anyone can make a report, the complaint might actually be coming from a competitor.

No mention was made in the story regarding whether non-English ads are included. But isn’t a “bad ad” bad no matter what language it’s in? Addressing non-compliant communications must, after all, be considered part of ensuring language access for today’s limited English proficient patients.

Good health!