How to Avoid Problems When Translating Patient Information Leaflets

The safety of patients is a fundamental principle of care. An important point is the receiving of information in an accessible language for them. For this, it is important to carry out a high-quality translation of all documents that are used in the treatment process.  Any inaccuracy, typo or oversight can affect the life or health of a person or even many people.


The Necessity of the Proper Translation

Patient Information Leaflets (PILs) are documents that contain information in an accessible form regarding the ongoing clinical trial of the drug, as well as the patients’ voluntary consent to participate in the clinical trial of the medicine after familiarizing themselves with the features of such research that are relevant to the expression of such consent. In what cases there is a need for their translation?

  1. The results of clinical trials, drug testing, and other pharmaceutical documentation are necessary for preparing a dossier for the registration of medicines in different countries.
  2. Translation of the operating instructions is required when using imported medicaments or their individual components.
  3. To conduct consultations in foreign medical institutions, interpretation of research results is necessary, and in some cases, there is also the need to identify side effects from the usage of drugs that are certified only in particular countries.


What Difficulties May Arise?

If you translate Patient Information Leaflets, the below problems may appear:

  • A large number of new terms and words, as in the modern world there are many medical discoveries and technologies.
  • Decoding of abbreviations (for example, ophthalmologists can decipher the “OD” as “right eye”, “occupational disease” or “patient with a drug overdose”).
  • Linguistic difficulties – the terms in medicine can have different meanings in different languages;
  • False translator friends – a couple of words in two languages, similar in spelling and/or pronunciation, often with a common origin, but differing in meaning and in medicine interlanguage homonyms are a fairly common phenomenon.
  • When translating units of measurement it is important to correctly convert them into different languages (for example, a misunderstanding may arise when recording the level of hemoglobin, which in some countries is measured not in grams per deciliter, but in grams per liter, thus, 13 g/dl = 130 g/l).

Medicine is a combination of several sciences, each of which is of great importance. Only with the possession of a sufficient level of knowledge in the fields of chemistry, biotechnology, pharmacology, psychology a specialist can make the interpretation of medical documents accurate and correct, which is vital. This makes PILs translation very similar to the visiting of a doctor.


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