;   Medical Translation Insight: 50% of translated Spanish medicine labels have errors - ForeignExchange Translations

50% of translated Spanish medicine labels have errorsBack in 2009, pharmacy chains in New York City agreed to offer translated medicine labels to customers speaking one of the seven top foreign languages spoken in the city. While the city's pharmacies have been complying with the law, they may be putting non-English-speaking patients at risk.

It turns out that machine translation programs used by Big Apple pharmacies frequently make mistakes when translating prescription labels from English to Spanish. Some of these errors could put patient safety at risk, according to a study published in the May edition of Pediatrics.

Researchers surveyed several pharmacies in New York City (44 percent of the city's population speaks Spanish) that use computer programs to translate prescription information into Spanish.

The study found that about 50% of Spanish labels surveyed contained errors. The mistakes range from the benign (misspellings and mixtures of English and Spanish) to major errors which could pose safety risks if patients misinterpreted the information.

The researchers recommended that software companies design better translation programs to improve patient safety. In the interim, the authors advised non-English-speakers to ask for the help of a professional linguist. Good but impractical advice...

[Tip of the hat to Ashleigh Grange!]

ForeignExchange Translations provides specialized medical translation and software localization services to pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Contact us to learn more.


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