Monday’s Whine: How the Heck Am I Supposed to Choose a Medical Translation Provider?
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Monday’s Whine: How the Heck Am I Supposed to Choose a Medical Translation Provider?

Monday’s Whine: How the Heck Am I Supposed to Choose a Medical Translation Provider?

ChoosingTrue confession, we are a translation service provider to the life sciences industry and we are interested in winning business. That doesn’t mean we will — customer acquisition is not an automatic process that connects your expense budget to our income accounts. And by rights, it shouldn’t be.

This brings me to today’s post. How can you, as a medical device- or pharmaceuticals translation services buyer, distinguish between the greats and the not-so-greats? What are the markers of a good medical translation company? And, more importantly, why does it matter?

When you’re a translation manager charged with finding the right vendor for the translation of your medical products and services, sometimes it’s an incredibly overwhelming task to know where to begin. There are tens of thousands of translation and localization companies on the market. And whether they focus on video localization or legal translation, they (hmm, we?) all claim to deliver The. Best. Translations. Ever. (Really, trying to find a translation company that doesn’t make that claim is like trying to find a doctor that admits to making mistakes.)

We understand your pain. So here’s our take on what you should be looking for and why the heck it matters.

The Criteria

1. Up-to-date knowledge of legislative developments

Regulatory bodies like the European Medicines Agency in the European Union and the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. regularly issue commission reports, advisories, procedural rules, and standards that guide their work in the evaluation and supervision of medical products and services developed for humans and animals alike.

Expert life sciences translation providers stay abreast of these developments by participating in working groups, associations, and full-scale conferences — and, more importantly, they share what they know of these developments with their affected customers.

Did you know, for example, that Croatia’s entry into the European Union means that pharmaceutical companies using the EMA’s centralized marketing authorization procedure must ensure that their product information is translated and available in Croatian by July 1st?

Compliance with the industry’s regulations is required; a professional translation vendor makes meeting those responsibilities easier.

2. Certifiable quality assurance practices

On quality claims, don’t take the word of the translation vendor alone. As in other professional industries, there are independent certifying bodies and standards against which great medical translation companies are happy to be measured. To pass the test — that is, to win certification — means that the company has made its staff, procedures, and documentation visible to the evaluators.

Moreover, the company has proven how each part works together to deliver, in this case, translations that help life sciences companies comply with industry standards, country-specific regulations, and more. In this regards, standards such as ISO 9001, ISO 13485:2012 and EN 15038:2006 matter.

3. Qualified medical industry professionals

Do you believe that literary translators are qualified to translate medical device manuals? I’m going to guess “no.” But why not? Well, for the same reason that you wouldn’t trust your next breast cancer screening to the auto mechanic at the service station down the road.

Training in translation for the life sciences is as specialized as the industry itself. That means that your right medical translation vendor will have a pool of expert medical practitioners and professionals who know not just the source terminology but the terminology as it is known in the target language locale. You read that right: it requires medical translation talent based in each target language market.

Do you have time to recruit, certify, and manage that talent on your own? Probably not … so you’ll want a vendor that you can trust to do it for you.

4. Modern terminology management technology

Believe it or not, this isn’t just a new chance for your company to bleed money. While the investment in delivering your new medical device or pharmaceutical into the hands of consumers in new markets abroad seems like an expensive undertaking, great medical translation vendors know to take great care with that investment.

The secret isn’t just in the knowledge, qualifications, and human resources described above. No, that alone would be impossibly expensive for even the largest global brands. What make this manageable — in both time and money — are translation automation tools.

Well-used translation technology mean that industry- and locale-specific terminology can be stored, retrieved, and repurposed to fit your needs whether you are using it for a product label or publishing it to online help databases.

These tools — terminology databases, content management systems, brand glossaries, and more — provide a level of consistency unmatched by the production of generations before. In term reuse and repurposing, these tools mean lower costs and faster deployment across all departments.

When accuracy and consistency can literally mean the difference between life and death, having the right tools is a vital investment.

Why It Matters

The medical industry is under considerable pressure to deliver accurate information to medical practitioners and consumers alike. The sources of the pressure are the regulatory agencies that are charged, rightly enough, with protecting the public health from unsavory and unscrupulous business practices.

In this respect, not only does the right medical translation matter to you and your company’s reputation, it matters to every man, woman, and child who relies on the medical services industry to get well.

And we can all breathe a deep sigh of relief for that.

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