Translating Medical Notes Can Be Very Challenging!

By Stacey
Sep 30, 2016 · 3 min

All translations must be reliable and accurate, and of course this is vitally important when translating medical notes.

Translating Medical Notes Can Be Very Challenging! | One Hour Translation

Every day around the world hundreds of thousands of people visit their doctor for advice or treatment for an injury or illness. Often, following a patients visit, the doctor will prepare a handwritten note and hand it to the patient so they can purchase a prescription. We understand that, today, many prescriptions are actually typed or computer-aided, but it wasn’t that long ago that all prescriptions were handwritten. The problem with these handwritten notes is that, generally, these notes are completely indecipherable to the patient, so the patient must be confident that the pharmacist will be familiar with the doctor’s scribble and understand what’s required.

Why Is Our Doctor’s Writing So Difficult to Read?

At one time or another we’ve all asked ourselves the question: ‘Why is our doctor’s handwriting so difficult to read?’ Perhaps it’s because they have so many scripts and other forms to complete each and every day that they’re simply tired of writing, or maybe they don’t want the patient to understand what they’ve written; but the overriding question and cause for concern is this: ‘What would happen if the pharmacist misunderstood the doctor’s writing and issued the wrong medication – a medication that could well make our condition even worse’?

Spare a Thought for the Translator!

So, while we must have sympathy for people who are required to read and understand medical notes, think about the poor translator who has to translate them? Health insurance companies, hospitals, and other healthcare companies often require that prescriptions be translated, and this includes notes from different doctors, medical records, forms completed by hand, and so on. So how should a translator approach this rather difficult task of translating medical notes?

The Medical Translation Process

The first thing a translator must do is convert the original text into an editable text format. However, because we’re talking about handwritten text, there’s another very important step to start with, and that’s the step of pre-editing. During this process the editor is required to complete, or fill in, the converted text with information that failed to be recognised by the converter; by that we mean to complete information that they’re actually able to understand. In many instances, fragments will have to be marked ‘illegible’ due to the poor quality of the original text, indecipherable handwriting by the doctor, and sometimes both. It can happen that even the language is unrecognizable, in which case the doctor should be consulted to ensure that there’s been a correct understanding of the text.

All translations must be reliable and accurate, and of course this is vitally important when translating medical notes. Therefore, the translator must provide good copies of medical texts. If the translator finds it difficult to understand the text, then they should ask for clarification from the doctor, or alternatively they should ask the doctor to type it out.

Fortunately, today it’s becoming more common for this type of medical information to be stored in digital, editable, and understandable formats; however, with texts that have been written the old-fashioned way, the best way to ensure a quality translation is to examine them with a human eye - and of course, to always ask for clarification when the text is unclear or complicated.

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