Tag Archive for medical translation

Medical translation figuring in emerging healthcare apps

Every software developer is looking for the “killer” app. With the growing popularity of smartphones and tablets like the iPad, the market for such applications is skyrocketing. Not surprisingly, healthcare is a common focus of these burgeoning tools, and the U.S. government, among others, wants to help spur that innovation.

Just ask Polyglot Systems. The North Carolina-based company (and viaLanguage client!) was just awarded the $5,000 top prize in a federally funded program that invited app developers to compete with each to develop the best health IT apps.

The winning app, chosen from a field of 15 contenders by a panel of health IT industry leaders, provides simplified medication instructions in multiple languages. Called “Meducation,” it retrieves medication lists from electronic health records (EHRs), and then links to a drug information database that provides simplified medication directions in one of several languages.

The contest grew out of a $15 million grant provided by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT through its Strategic Health IT Advanced Research Projects program. Meanwhile, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School developed Substitutable Medical Applications, Reusable Technologies (SMART), a programming interface to support the development of health-related apps.

It is encouraging to see both the resources and energy devoted to applying technological innovation to improving healthcare. It is doubly encouraging to see that translation needs are figuring in those efforts.

For more on the contest, check out the recent post on the iHealthBeat blog. And congratulations to Polyglot from all of us here at viaLanguage!

Till next time,

Medical translation driving translation industry growth in India

Globalization has ushered in unprecedented opportunities to reach new audiences, incorporate new efficiencies, and build new partnerships. It connects untold people to resources and possibilities unheard of even 20 years ago. But there are challenges, and countries across the globe are trying to keep up.

In a recent Global Watchtower post, Vijaylaxmi Hegde explores how one of the increasingly important players in the global economy―India—is dealing with a key challenge: medical translation. What’s more, she points out that this need is helping fuel, inform and further the nation’s general translation and localization industry.

In countries like Sweden and the U.K., the need for translation has been driven by the demands of growing immigrant and refugee populations. But in India that impetus is being delivered in part by what is being called “medical tourism.”

In recent years, patients from countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and others have begun traveling to India for care, and as they do so they are bringing with them new and largely unfamiliar language and cultural requirements. The medical translation community is scrambling to respond.

As globalization continues to forge connections between far-flung cultures and peoples, and those peoples travel for work, business, or, in the case of India, health, the demand for translation will only grow more acute. Medical translation must rise to meet the challenge if such opportunities are to be truly successful or ultimately sustainable.

Till next time,

Healthcare reform set to increase demand for medical translation

The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us we can expect the healthcare industry to grow over the next decade. How much? Forecasts are that about one in four jobs created in the U.S. through 2018 will be in healthcare.

The engines behind such growth are fairly easy to identify: America’s aging population and the $940 billion Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) passed last March. What some may neglect to appreciate is what this means for medical translation.

Industry analysts suggest these developments could lead to an increase in the insurance rolls of approximately 44 million people. Most striking for medical translators is that half of those will be coming from communities in which English is not the primary language.

Not surprisingly, a great many of these limited English proficient (LEP) Americans are applauding the reform and looking forward to the welcome coverage. For example, a recent New America Media poll revealed that more than 65 percent of Korean-Americans, the nation’s most underinsured ethnic group, support the reform package.

But such growth is also likely to trigger a spike in the need for medical translation, which the new legislation mandates must be “culturally and linguistically appropriate.” Plus, this now applies not only to health plan details, but also benefit, prescription, and treatment information, a big change. And most significantly perhaps it must all be completed by July 1, 2011.

Today’s uninsured are ready. But will the industry be ready to receive them?

Till next time,

Effective medical translation is not only about the words

Medical translation demands getting it as absolutely close to perfect as possible. The words have to be right, but they are just part of the equation. The nuances and subtleties, slang and idiom that distinguish one culture from another are other important facets. Truly effective medical translators know this. What some may not know is that even the formatting of your materials can have an impact on how well you are able to reach your patients.

Apparent incidentals like fonts, line breaks, graphics, and other elements can actually have different meanings in different cultures. In Japan, for example, italicizing will only confuse most readers. And if you wish to identify something as important or want to show respect, it’s best to use additional punctuation marks or double-width characters. Other characteristics like bolding, underlining, and stylized character sets are also issues in Japanese and should be used sparingly.

These are important considerations. Overlooked, they can impact the effectiveness of what might be an otherwise accurate language translation. Identifying and responding to these details is one of the places your language services provider (LSP) can really add value. Work with them to make sure the design of your materials is strengthening, and not undermining, your message.

Till next time,

Medical translation aided by emerging smart phone apps

In an astonishingly short period of time we have graduated from cell phones to smart phones. Aptly named, the latter devices make their predecessors seem like the communication equivalent of the game Pong.

In the last year, with the spread of the iPhone and competitors like the Android, applications for smart phones have exploded, including development of a number of promising translation tools. Apple’s AppStore alone boasts more than a dozen translation applications. Two that deserve special attention are those from Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

The Jibbigo application converts English speech into Spanish or the other way around. Users speak into the phone in one language and the phone answers with the translated version. PicTranslator employs the phone’s built-in camera. You simply take a picture of the text you wish to translate, choose the desire language, and the application does the rest. It can also help with guidance in pronunciation.

The tools are not designed specifically for healthcare environments, and they are in no way a replacement for trained medical translation professionals. But it is easy to see how such applications could prove useful—and perhaps even critical—in circumstances where time or resources did not afford medical staff any other option.

As mainstream technology continues to evolve, we should be on the lookout for those tools that can help medical personnel ensure that they are always saying what they mean to their patients.

Check out these links for demos of Jibbigo and PicTranslator.

Healthcare innovations should not neglect medical translation needs

Among the intentions of the new health reform legislation is an expansion of choice for today’s healthcare consumer. This focus is already casting into sharper relief the imperative for providers to effectively communicate with their audiences, especially its limited English proficient (LEP) audiences.

HealthPartners, a provider and insurer in Minnesota, recently launched a novel remote diagnosis service. Called Virtuwell, the new service is available online, offering treatment for a range of common conditions that don’t typically require an actual exam. These include colds, allergy-related issues, ear pain, yeast and urinary tract infections, and a host of others.

Patients visiting the site are first asked a set of standard questions en route to diagnosis. The answers are then reviewed by a nurse practitioner, who then contacts the patient directly about 30 minutes later.

It is hoped that the service, which costs about $40 and is available to anyone living in or visiting Minnesota, will streamline the process for medical staff, while enabling patients to enjoy more immediate care and assistance and at a lower cost.

On that score it is a laudable effort. But what is not mentioned, and what seems absent after a brief tour of the Virtuwell site, are any language options. In a state that recent census data identifies as being comprised of a population that is 5 percent foreign born (more than 260,000 people), such an option seems like a missed opportunity.

Till next time,

National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters launches registry

Anyone who has faced the challenge of visiting a hospital in a non-English-speaking country knows both how frustrating and how frightening it can be. When there is any impediment to the healthcare professional’s ability to discuss your situation and options or your own ability to ask questions, the likelihood of receiving the care you need is compromised, sometimes dangerously.

Ensuring that communication is not a job for the untrained or the inexperienced; the risks are obvious. To help promote patient access and safety, the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters recently took an important step forward by launching its National Registry of Certified Medical Interpreters.

The registry is a searchable database of medical translators who have passed the board’s oral and written examinations. Interpreters can be searched by a range of criteria, including city, credentials, language, and state, among other details. And if you are a healthcare organization or employer, you can do so for free.

The move is part of a larger effort by the board to promote greater patient safety. Starting in October 2009, the board initiated the exams, with successful applicants earning their Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) designation. To date, approximately 300 interpreters have either completed the exams or are in the process of doing so.

The principal responsibility of healthcare organizations is the health of the patients they serve. The CMI certification and registry mark a significant advancement in that effort, alerting both the industry and those who rely on it that experience and training are central to effective medical translation. Learn more about the CMI designation in the board’s press release.

Till next time,

Google looking to help fuel global medical translation availability

Google seems to be everywhere these days. Be it discussions with Verizon about the future of the Internet or talks with China about Internet freedom, they are helping drive many important conversations that promise to directly and indirectly impact global communication.

They are also a company whose professed operating principle is “do no harm,” and many of their enterprises seek to demonstrate a commitment to the greater good. That looks to be the intent of a recent announcement by Google’s philanthropic side, Google.org, to help make health-related information available to people around the world, regardless of their language.

Called Health Speaks, the effort intends to use community, crowdsourced, and collaborative translation, tools we’ve addressed in earlier posts here, to promote and facilitate access to health care information. The approach hinges on volunteers, who will be responsible for translating the health-related content.

To help get things started, for each word translated during the first 60 days Google will donate US$0.03 to one of three non-profit organizations—Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt, the Public Health Foundation of India, and the African Medical and Research Foundation—up to total of $150,000.

At present, the project, which launches as a pilot, will only address three languages: Arabic, Hindi, and Swahili. A modest beginning to be sure, the initiative nevertheless represents the growing public awareness that access to health care information remains one of the most important hurdles to wellness across the planet.

Good health!

Remember fellow medical translators, Spain is more than just Spanish

It bears repeating: Language matters. It is, of course, one of our abiding mantras at viaLanguage and one that we keep top of mind when working with our healthcare clients as they endeavor to reach their limited-English proficient (LEP) patients.

And it’s not easy. As anyone involved in medical translation, or any kind of translation, can tell you, it involves a great deal more than replacing the words of one language with those of another. We’ve discussed how Spanish, for example, can differ from country to country, but that’s just the beginning.

Consider the challenges of communicating with your patients from Spain. This would seem a fairly straightforward situation: use Spanish or perhaps neutral Spanish. But a recent post on the Medical Translation Insight blog underscored why this might not be as easy as it seems at first blush.

In truth, Spain is culturally and linguistically diverse. And while Spanish is admittedly the dominant language, did you know that the country actually has five official languages? They are Castilian, which is also referred to as Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician, and Aranese.

Not surprisingly, the Spanish tend to be multilingual, but the speakers of these other languages are proudly protective of their language’s role in the culture and history of their people and region.

To learn more about the language breakdown in Spain, visit the blog post. In the meantime, it’s good for us to remember that to communicate effectively we must never ignore our duty to develop an understanding of the culture of our audience, even when it seems obvious.

Good health!

Mark your calendar for free medical translation webinar Sept. 16

If healthcare organizations hope to thrive in today’s multicultural melting pot, they have to meet the language access needs of their limited-English proficient (LEP) patients. This is not news to most of you. You deal with that challenge every day. But true success means creating a medical translation program that is economically sustainable, no small thing in today’s world of shrinking budgets and growing demand.

For those who know they can do better when it comes to serving their LEP patients, but aren’t always sure how to pay for the support that requires, viaLanguage is offering a free webinar entitled “Tips to Streamline and Save on Your Healthcare Translations.” Here’s the when:

Sept. 16th at 8:00 a.m. (HT), 11:00 a.m. (PT), 1:00 p.m. (CT), 2:00 p.m. (ET)

As for the what, the webinar will explore new techniques and tips for streamlining your translation process, without compromising the quality or effectiveness of your communications. Topics include:

• Innovative practices for ensuring accurate, readable health materials, including health literacy and cultural assessment
• Recommendations for cutting time and costs while maintaining quality
• Incorporating translation tools and Translation Memory into your projects
• Machine translation today – is it free?

Maybe you’re just getting started with medical translation or perhaps you just want to get the most up-to-date information on today’s best practices. Either way, we hope you can join us!

Good health!