Translation and localization are necessities in virtually every industry today. But maybe only in the healthcare sector can a failure here become a matter of life and death.
The challenge is that healthcare is in the midst of dramatic changes in how it is offered, paid for, and supported. One recent development that has been getting a good deal of attention lately is the rise of urgent care facilities as a cheaper, more convenient alternative to the traditional emergency room.
These facilities, sometimes called “docs in a box,” offer walk-in medical services and extended hours for those with non-life-threatening medical problems. Doctors provide the care, assisted by nurses, and most are open 365 days a year with insurance covering most services.
In most states, however, urgent care centers are not overseen by the Department of Health or other state agencies. This means things like services, staff credentials, and the hours of operation are not always clear. Also unclear is each center’s commitment to healthcare access for limited English proficient (LEP) audiences.
If urgent care centers are a trend that will endure, those operating them must remember the language needs of their. Otherwise, only those who speak English well are likely to benefit.
A lot of hope — and money — is being invested in technology as a means for helping promote improved healthcare. Fueled in part by President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), this situation in the U.S. is sure to continue to heat up.
Jacob Goldstein, writing in the Wall Street Journal’s Health Blog, cites a report from DataMonitor in which Intel and General Electric claim that the North American and European markets for just one facet of this effort, “telehealth” and home-health monitoring, are expected to grow from $3 billion in 2009 to some $7.7 billion by 2012.
Part of the goal with telehealth is to enable doctors to monitor their sick patients remotely, so the patients can stay at home. Google and IBM already say that patients can use IBM software to transfer data from medical devices like blood-pressure cuffs and glucose monitors directly to Google’s online personal health record.
The promise for these innovations is truly exciting. Meanwhile, the challenge for technology companies, and the healthcare providers who invest in their tools, will be to ensure that all patients, especially those for whom English is a struggle, also benefit.
Vocabulary and grammar are just two parts of effective medical translation. Accounting for the cultural makeup of your audience also plays a key role in determining if you’ll be understood. Ignoring it can be costly for you and your patient.
We call this step “cultural adaptation” and it provides the lens through which your non-English-speaking communities view your healthcare organization, your products and services, and ultimately your value.
Colors, symbols, images — all are part of your message. In fact, they are often responsible for the initial response in your audience before even a single word is read. So it’s imperative to adapt the entire communication, not just the words, to ensure the desired result.
The right translation partner can help you understand the protocols and taboos for effectively communicating with all your healthcare communities.