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September 9, 2020 |

7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring Medical Translators

Medical translation requires proficiency in at least two languages, cultural insights, excellent communication skills, awareness of the industry standards, and a series of certifications. Medical translators work in a highly-regulated translation niche, in which protocols, quality management, and traceability are essential for successful results. 

Whether you need to translate pharmaceutical documentation, clinical trials, or other life science-related content, you should opt for a professional language service provider that can guarantee top-quality, security, and accuracy in translation. Work with linguists who have experience in your industry and understand the challenges of launching a new product or service in global markets. This is vital when looking to get more done on time, within your budget, and in compliance with local and international laws. 

At the same time, you must communicate your objectives right from the start to make it easy for translators to understand your needs and expectations. These seven questions to ask before hiring medical translators will make the job easier for you and your translators. 

1. Have You Done Similar Translations Before?

Life science and medical translations may seem like a narrow niche, but the truth is, it’s an area that includes a wide series of sub-niches, often with no connection between them. For example, medical translators used to handle clinical trials aren’t likely to have the right skills for translating documentation for medical devices or instructions for the pharma industry. 

Make sure you find language professionals who are familiar with your industry and have the insights necessary to complete the job successfully. If it’s hard to find the right people, look for experts from similar areas, as they’re most likely to understand the terminology and write in the tone of voice that your target audience expects. 

2. Do You Understand What Makes the Project Unique?

The downside when working with language professionals in such narrow niches is that often even the most complex documents are routine, as a result of doing similar translations regularly. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it helps them respect rigid standards and regulations. However, sometimes a standard working system can impact your translations. 

When you ask this specific question, you make sure that the medical translators pay attention to the context. This way, they’re more likely to find a balance between international requirements and your brand voice.  

3. What Tools Will You Use for This Project?

Medical translators often use CAT tools, terminology lists and databases, and sometimes, even involve external experts to do their job right. The more complex the topic, the higher the number of tools they will have to work with to provide a high-quality translation. 

Make sure that everything they use is accurate, updated, and connected to your industry, to avoid misunderstandings and confusion of terminology. Remember that medical translators are experts in their respective fields; still, no one knows your business as your own employees. It’s in your best interest to encourage your in-house experts to collaborate and help translators create a glossary of terms. 

If you contribute to terminology management, you’ll speed up the translation process and ensure consistency across all your translations. 

4. How Will You Protect My Documentation?

In medical translation, as in any other healthcare-related area, you’ll need your medical translators to be HIPAA certified. However, you’ll need to go beyond this certification and learn some more about your language service provider’s cybersecurity policy before sharing any files. 

You should hire medical translators who can protect your company data, especially when documents contain personal information of employees, users of medical devices, or patients. 

If your language service provider plans to outsource part of your translation project to freelancers, make sure your data is safe from start to finish to eliminate the risks of a breach. 

5. What Industry Standards Do You Follow?

Internationally recognized standards ensure that translators follow specific protocols and dedicated processes to ensure quality in translation. It’s not a formality, but a mindset that permits linguists to avoid errors and deliver high-quality work every day. 

So, when you ask this question, don’t stop at the list of certifications that almost any language service provider publishes on their website. Ask the project manager what every certification means and how it will influence the translation process. 

Transparent providers will explain workflows and highlight why specific steps are necessary to secure accuracy and security. It may seem that this question is less critical, but it’s helpful when you want to understand how medical translators add value to your project.

6. How Do You Handle Proofreading?

Revisions and proofreading are vital in medical translation so you need to work with medical translators who take it seriously and don’t skip proofreading to meet milestones.   

Ideally, translators and proofreaders are native speakers of the target language. When this isn’t possible, the proofreader should at least be a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and live in the target country or region. This way, you make sure that the voice and style are suitable for the text and respect all local language rules. 

7. Are You Updated on Regulations?

In healthcare, medical, and life science industries, it’s hard to keep up with changing laws. There are amendments, government orders, organic laws, and methodologies to follow every time you need to go through an approval process. 

All companies operating in these industries must follow the same rigid rules, regardless of what languages they speak. Failure to comply can lead to penalties, fines, and even having a product denied or banned from the market. 

Whether you’re selling medical devices, healthcare apps, or producing components for laboratories, you need to make sure that every industry manual, clinical trial, or package insert respects the requirements. 

Working with a team of medical translators who know the industry inside-out and are up-to-date with legislation makes your job easier. Plus, it saves you revisions and additional working hours in the long run. 

Final Thoughts 

These seven questions to ask when hiring medical translators will help you choose the best team for the job and reduce the risk of misunderstandings between you and your language service provider. They allow you to streamline the translation process and make the terms of your contract clear for both sides.