Sharing Best Practices for Effective Multilingual Communication in Healthcare
Many people wonder: why does my translation need a termbase? If they only knew all the trouble a well-crafted termbase saves them from. A termbase is essentially a customized glossary of terms for your company and its translations. It guarantees that important or complex terms are translated in a way that is consistent, and not confusing. To some people it seems like a luxury at first glance, but that’s only because the snowballing consequences of inconsistent translating are difficult to imagine if you haven’t lived through them yet. Not only that, the time spent creating the termbase quickly pays for itself. The four main ways it helps are as follows.
We can all agree that medical information is intimidating for many patients, especially if they have low health literacy. Many conditions and procedures have more than one name, and drugs have their generic names as well as brand names, which change from country to country. Switching between synonyms in a medical document should be avoided or done with great care to prevent patients from thinking they are reading about different things. Imagine reading a document explaining the importance of a glycated hemoglobin test, only to have it later refer to a test called a hemoglobin A1c. A patient could easily mistake these for two different tests, but they are actually one and the same. Try to imagine how much worse this confusion would be if a patient had to read multiple documents translated at different times and by different people, and you start to scratch the surface of the trouble caused by skipping out on a termbase. It is a permanent resource that translators will refer to as they work to make sure all messaging is clear and consistent.
Medical translation is in a category unto itself. It must be clear and precise. Tragedies have occurred due to mistranslations, from people being treated for the wrong illness to people having the wrong side of the body operated on. Translation really can be the weakest link in patient care if it is not done safely and professionally. That’s why medical translations need to be completed with double-checks and fail-safes by translators who have medical knowledge. The termbase helps make sure these translators don’t diverge widely in the intermediate steps, and makes collaboration much more time and cost efficient. This leads to a cost reduction for the client as well.
This is the other way the termbase saves money. Translation is almost a never a one-time job. Things change and medical documents will need to be updated. New documents will need to be created, and these updates need to match your already established ones. When a medical facility has a termbase established, these updates do not have to start over from square one. The termbase equates to much less work for the translator performing the updates or building on previous material, saving time and money.
You might wonder how you can influence the quality of a document in a language you do not speak, but fortunately the creation of the termbase gives you plenty of influence on the final product. Making the termbase is a collaborative process, and the translation team will be asking you how you want certain terms represented, including registered names and brand names, which are often best left unchanged even if they are words in the language of origin. There are numerous other ways in which the client can participate in the development of the custom termbase in order to guarantee they have a final product that represents them as they see fit.
A termbase is an investment up front that saves a company money and time once the translation is underway. It also assures that the healthcare documents provided to a diverse community are safe, trustworthy, and consistent, rather than confusing or conflictive. It is a crucial tool that guarantees good communication from behind the scenes.