Tag Archive for translation

ACA Opens the Door to Newly Eligible Populations

It seems like it was just yesterday when we were in the midst of a national election and speculating if the Affordable Care Act was going to move forward as planned.   Fast forward just three months to February and the Final Rule for Essential Health Benefits was issued.  Expanded access through Medicaid expansion and Insurer Markets is a reality and open enrollment is approaching fast.

This expanded access will reach populations that haven’t previously had coverage, and the learning curve will be huge.   I’ve lived in the healthcare system my entire career and I still find the flow charts explaining access to be a bit of a spaghetti diagram.  And that’s just the start—once people determine their eligibility, they will need to make decisions about health plans, navigate enrollment forms, select providers, etc.   This is an excellent opportunity not only to provide care, but also to provide education to new members on wellness, prevention and disease management.  As the immigrant population will comprise a significant percentage of the newly eligible, providing these materials to consumers with limited English proficiency will be critical to improving the experience, outcomes and ultimately population health.

Health literacy is a big concern in our healthcare system affecting both escalating costs and outcomes.  It is particularly prevalent among the elderly, and members of minority or ethnic groups who already face language and cultural barriers.  A few things to keep in mind when creating and translating materials are:  target 6th-8th grade literacy levels, write clearly in active voice, use short sentences, use clear headings, incorporate cultural nuances for LEP populations, and use graphics to help explain concepts. We also find that Q&A formats work well.

I firmly believe it’s up to all of us to simplify the increasing complexity of the health care system!


Want to learn more about health literacy and how to prepare your health plan for the changing healthcare marketplace? Download and watch our recent webinar, 2012 Health Plan Preparedness.


Are your Healthcare Communications Reaching your LEP Patients?

The need for language and cultural services in the U.S. is estimated to grow

More than 23 million U.S. residents report having Limited English Proficiency (LEP), and changes to healthcare reform under the Obama administration and Affordable Care Act will increase the demand for language and cultural services in the U.S. to support a growing pool of patients eligible for care. As a result, services specializing in language and culture are in demand and are estimated to grow 12 percent per year.

Engaging and retaining clients, complying with legislation and enabling language access, can be complicated and expensive. Industry research firm, Common Sense Advisory, calculates that that the worldwide language-services business was worth $34 billion in 2012. VIA is dedicated to providing the industry with value-add services such as automated workflow, cultural assessment and free education for its customers. For example in 2012, we added a new service option that allows us to offer a full set of web and mobile training solutions to support the unique needs of the healthcare industry.
Find out more about how VIA can help you reduce costs and meet language access mandates through enhanced centralized translation approach.

What are you doing in 2013 to properly care for your LEP clients?

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!

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative putting grant to work to benefit LEP communities

The ability for healthcare organizations to reach healthcare goals has perhaps never been more complex or more challenging. But the reality is that the need to meet those goals has likely never been more critical, especially among limited English proficiency (LEP) communities.

The viaLanguage Healthcare Translation Grant Program is one way we hope to help. The grant reflects our desire to spotlight and support those innovative healthcare organizations that are finding a way to improve access for today’s underserved, ethnic audiences.

Our 2010 grant recipient, the Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative in California, is a prime example. After conducting a baseline assessment of the uninsured in Alameda County in 2009, they concluded that the biggest finding was how challenging it was to gather information, especially amongst the smaller limited-scope providers.

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative collaborated with a range of partners to develop a website that provides a comprehensive list of clinics, including both free and community clinics, an explanation of the different types of services they offer, and the processes patients must go through to get an appointment with a doctor.

Alameda County Access to Care Collaborative applied its $5,000 of in-kind translation services to the translation of the website into Spanish and Chinese, proving along the way that today’s most pressing healthcare challenges can be overcome. We applaud and congratulate them. Click here to read the entire case study about this project.

Inaccurate translation could lead to death sentence for store operator

We have discussed how given the right set of circumstances medical translation can be a matter of life and death. An inaccurately translated prescription, a failed communication between a doctor and patient, a breakdown in an emergency room exchange, each underscores the importance of clear, accurate translation.

A recent case in Egypt points up another example of where a failure in translation can have potentially dire consequences. Mostafa Soliman, a dual U.S./Egyptian citizen, found himself in December arrested and looking at a possible death sentence as a consequence of a poor translation.

The problems began when Soliman, operator of vitamin and health supplement business, imported non-psychoactive hemp seed oil into Egypt. Egyptian customs inaccurately translated “hemp oil” as “hash oil,” a significant problem as Arabic does not have a separate word for “hemp,” classifying any permutation of the cannabis plant simply as cannabis.

After being first held at a Cairo police station Soliman was soon transferred to a maximum-security prison, where he reportedly shared an eight-foot-by-eight-foot cell with up to 30 people, including thieves, rapists, and murderers.

He was finally granted bail only to have the legal process interrupted by the protests in Egypt, during which a mob freed the inmates of the prison. At present, while out of jail, he is attempting, amidst considerable confusion, to clarify the misunderstanding.

Soliman’s story serves as yet another cautionary tale. When it comes to communication, we take translation lightly at our own peril.

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!

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!

When it comes to medical translation, a single word can make a difference

If you are medical translation professional or a limited English proficient (LEP) patient, you know firsthand how important—and how fraught with possible misunderstanding—translation of medications can be.

It can start at the very beginning with many failing to appreciate the difference between such fundamental words as “medication” and “drug.” Contrary to the words’ regular interchangeable use, they are not synonyms. Rather, the former designates those substances that have a pharmacological effect, while drugs, for our purposes here, are the products into which those medications are made.

As a consequence, some medical professionals use International Non-proprietary Names (INN) to refer to medications/drugs when creating their patient materials. Others rely on commercial brand names. Still others use common names that are understood in the U.S. but largely unfamiliar elsewhere. (e.g., acetaminophen is a widely used name in the U.S., though it is known as paracetamol elsewhere around the world).

It is easy to see how such a situation can compromise the accuracy and clarity that is necessary for safe and effective medical translation. More importantly, such a failure can have profound effects on the ability of LEP patients to make informed decisions about their health. And this is a risk we simply cannot afford to take.

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!

Study suggests pharmacists too often avoid offering LEP options

After last week’s post discussing the alarmingly high rate of errors in machine translated medicine labels in New York comes another story that suggests the problem might in fact be much larger. According to a recent article in The Oncology Pharmacist, the issue goes well beyond both New York and machine translation.

The report highlights the results of questionnaires completed by nearly 300 chain and independent pharmacists across the country. What did it reveal? Among the lessons gleaned from the study is the understanding that of those pharmacists who do not offer translated information more than half have adopted the position for fear of translation inaccuracies. About 25 percent concede they have shied away due to worries about the legal ramifications of such errors.

Perhaps most frustrating of all are those pharmacies that have limited English proficient (LEP) capabilities and/or resources, but elect not to share that option with their patients for the fears stated above or other reasons, including cost or a perceived lack of qualified medical translators.

Now, mistranslations of labels are admittedly a potentially serious hazard, as underscored in last week’s post, but failure to provide any medical translation options is akin somehow to rolling the dice when it comes to a patient’s health. Neither scenario promotes the necessary level of safety and access required for true and effective health care.

The study concludes that the solution for pharmacists is perhaps little different than that required of other medical professionals: training. This starts by achieving a sound understanding of the cultural and language needs of their patients. And it is supported by learning how and where to secure the services of medical translation experts.

Good health!