;   Medical Translation Insight: Quality matters, or: Is risk a four-letter word? - ForeignExchange Translations

Quality matters, or: Is risk a four-letter word?The other day, we wrote about how our client panelists during ForeignExchange's annual company meeting reinforced the importance of quality in medical translation.

For our panelists (and most of the professionals in device and drug companies whom I have met), this was not just important but deeply personal. They are acutely aware of the impact that their jobs have on patients' lives because translation and language mistakes really can be a matter of live and death.

Sometimes, translation accuracy plays a big role in determining the safety of drugs during law suits. Other times, translation discrepancies between a device software interface and the accompanying user guide lead to a product recall.

More seriously, translation mistakes sometimes lead to falsely implanted total knee arthroplasties. Rarely, language issues endanger patients' lives.

How do medical translation providers protect themselves and end-users from this? Different providers will use different means, ranging from reliance on their individual know-how to obtaining E&O insurance to relying on multiple sets of eyes performing incremental QA steps.

Increasingly though, the words "risk management" are entering the vocabulary of the translation profession. While this activity sometimes focuses on trivial areas (e.g., "good" documentation disciplines), more and more medical translation providers look to add value through their risk management practices.

In ForeignExchange's example, we have relied on ISO 14971, not just to minimize risk but to improve our work flows. We have found that effective risk management adds real, measurable value: By reducing failure rates, we are able to provide faster turnaround times, reduce our costs, and significantly improve client satisfaction levels.

And by practicing effective risk management, we can rest at night, knowing that we are saving, not endangering, patients' lives.

ForeignExchange's METRiQ translation quality methodology provides medical device and pharmaceutical companies with measurable translation quality - every time.


  1. Joanne said...
    As someone who worked in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry before becoming a translator, the "deeply personal" part in your post really struck home. Actually, it describes why I am so meticulous about the accuracy of my translation work, and why I get upset when I have to edit a poorly done pharmaceutical translation!

    There are many risks associated with developing new drugs and medical devices that need to be mitigated by the project team. I have no doubt that life sciences companies appreciate knowing that at least translation risk can be effectively managed.

    Your focus on reducing risk, instead of just providing a translation as many LSPs do, is a differentiating factor.
    Fahd Hassanein said...
    Having this feeling of a liability and responsibility towards work not just towards the income coming from it is a factor that drives forward a whole process of quality and success, on the project managers and translators sides alike.

    [Via LinkedIn]
    Zachary Overline said...
    About the notion of being "deeply personal," I think it's also important to note that different companies have different definitions of quality when it comes to translation. For the most part, I think Life Sciences organizations are all concerned about terminological accuracy, consistency between numbers and measurements, etc. But there seems to be a big rift between: a) companies that want straight word-for-word translations to minimize any discrepancies between source and target texts, and b) companies that focus more on readability in their user documentation, which sometimes calls for re-addressing a phrase or two in the target language.

    Then there are companies who take their translation review very seriously: some who are willing to pay extra for back-translation to ENSURE translation accuracy. Whereas other Life Sciences companies have nixed the translation review process altogether because they're concerned that it introduces human error/subjectivity into the target content.

    So I think an important aspect of assessing risk is first understanding how the clients themselves define translation quality, and what their individual goals are for the QA process.

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