19 Mar /13

Lives lost in translation – The importance of accurate medical translation

Medical translation Imagine visiting a doctor or a hospital and not being able to explain your condition. Compounding the problem, imagine not being able to understand what the medical professionals are saying to you in reply.

For the majority of us this is an unlikely hypothesis, but for the 25 million people in the United States with limited English proficiency (LEP) the problem is all too real. This group encompasses and isolates 4.7% of all American households, and in the United Kingdom such communication issues are no less pressing. Rising migration over the past decade has opened the door to healthcare scenarios where emergencies are common, urgent consent is often required and the inability to communicate effectively can have dire consequences.

As with many communication problems, the quickest solution might not be the most effective one. Recent reports from New Zealand claim that doctors are using Google Translate to make themselves understood to non-English speaking patients. Public health liaison officer Wayne Reid told reporters in Christchurch that doctors were using the online service to translate complex medical instructions, and cited the danger of patients taking incorrect medication dosages with potentially life threatening consequences. A recent study by the American Academy of Paediatrics found that two out of every three poor translations in healthcare produced using machine translation have serious clinical consequences.

In the UK, clinical negligence cases cost the NHS an estimated £15.7 billion last year. In the United States, it was reported that in 2010 alone 195,000 patients were killed by clinical error.  These errors take many forms, but why risk adding to them by cutting corners in basic patient communication?

Assuring accurate human translation in healthcare is not only essential because of the potentially fatal consequences of misguided do-it yourself translation efforts by medical staff, but has become extremely urgent as changes to Medicaid and Medicare legislation will grant access to healthcare for millions of Americans whose native language is not English.

Professional human translation, cutting errors not corners, nips problems in the bud while safeguarding healthcare providers from costly lawsuits.  EVS Translations works hand in hand with professionals all over the world to limit liability, reduce costs, and protect the reputation and integrity of our clients. Professional people deserve professional medical translations. In a world where simple human communication is becoming both easier and more complex, we offer that support every day.