10 Best practices for medical interpretation

10 Best practices for medical interpretation

  • Health
  • March 30, 2023
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Medical translation and interpretation come with a lot of responsibilities. The medical industry is a challenging and tough field. Also, the nature of the content is sensitive and translations and interpretations are often needed in life-threatening situations.

Medical interpretation is an act of facilitating communication between healthcare providers and patients who speak different languages. A medical translator looks after the translation process whereas a medical interpreter deals with the interpretation. It is an essential part of healthcare delivery and helps ensure that patients receive high-quality care regardless of their language or cultural background. Many times the scenarios and situation call for an urgent decision and medical process. They can not wait for the translation results and hence call for medical interpreters. However, medical interpretation comes with certain challenges. It requires highly skilled interpreters who understand the nuances of medical language and possess cultural competence.

Medical companies and healthcare professionals should ensure that they follow certain practices while hiring medical interpreters. Interpretation in medical terms is tough and requires particular steps to follow.

  1. Choose a qualified Interpreter

The first and foremost crucial practice to follow in medical interpretation is to choose a qualified interpreter. Medical interpreters should have specialized training in medical terminology. Subject matter expertise is particularly significant for this field. Moreover, they should also have good ethics and communication skills. They should also be fluent in both the source and target languages and know the patient’s culture. Healthcare providers should avoid using family members, friends, or untrained interpreters to interpret for patients, as this can lead to inaccurate translations, miscommunications, and violations of patient privacy. Also, this can get risky and put the life of the patient in danger.

  1. Ensure confidentiality

Medical interpretation requires interpreters to handle sensitive information, and confidentiality is of the utmost importance. Patients are not comfortable often sharing their health condition and medical problems to know other people. Therefore, healthcare providers should ensure that interpreters understand the need for confidentiality and sign a confidentiality agreement. Providers should also avoid discussing patient information outside of the interpreting session, even with the interpreter. He should know only as much as needed for the interpretation process.

  1. Establish the role of the Interpreter

Healthcare givers and hospitals should establish the role of the interpreter before the interpreting session. The interpreter’s role should be limited to facilitating communication between the physician and the patient. Interpreters should not provide medical advice or opinions, advocate for the patient, or perform any other duties beyond interpreting. He is not a medical expert and he can not suggest things on his own. Also, he needs to be natural and unbiased in his opinions. He should not suggest patients’ things.

  1. Hire a professional interpreter

Professional medical interpreters have specialized training in medical interpretation and are bound by a code of ethics. They are trained to remain impartial, provide accurate translations, and maintain confidentiality. The doctors and physicians along with hospital staff should use professional interpreters whenever possible to ensure accurate and quality communication. They should also ensure that they look for medical translation agencies to hire interpreters who are qualified enough. The freelancers coming without any credibility can worsen the situation.

  1. Prepare for the interpretation session

An interpretation session requires specific preps beforehand. The healthcare centers should prepare for the interpretation session by working on necessary documents or medical records, preparing a list of questions, and ensuring that all parties understand the purpose of the session. The physicians as well as patients should be briefed about the whole practice. The helping staff in the hospital should also inform the interpreter of any specific medical terminology which they feel he should know before sessions.

  1. Speak in short segments

During the interpretation session, healthcare providers should speak in short segments and pause frequently to allow the interpreter to translate. This is extremely vital. The interpreter can barely understand them if they keep on talking speedily. It kills the purpose of the whole process. They should speak in short and precise sentences. Also, they should avoid speaking in long paragraphs or using complex sentences, as this can make it difficult for the interpreter to provide an accurate translation.

  1. Avoid using jargon

Healthcare providers should avoid using jargon or medical terminology that is difficult for the patient to understand. If necessary they can have quick sessions with the interpreter and can convey their reservations and important terms they are going to use for a consistent interpretation. Both parties should use plain language and explain any medical terms or concepts in simple words that may be unfamiliar to the patient to make it easy for patients.

  1. Allow time for questions

Interpretation sessions can be stressful for patients, especially if they are receiving difficult news or discussing sensitive medical information. Therefore, they should be given time to process the information and for the questions to ask. They should allow time for questions and ensure that the patient understands the information presented and is ready to absorb it.

  1. Provide adequate training

This is an important practice. The providers should provide adequate training to all staff members who may interact with non-English speaking patients. Training should include cultural competence, effective communication strategies, and best practices for medical interpretation.

  1. Use technology

Technology can be a useful tool in medical interpretation. It is there to help and simplify the processes so that better and more accurate life science medical translation and interpretation is produced. The physician and care providers can use video remote interpretation (VRI) to connect with interpreters remotely and provide real-time translation if he is unable to make it onsite. Providers can also use translation software to translate written materials, such as consent forms and medical records. However, they should ensure they edit and proofread it well before they implement it. The best way is to hire a professional life science translation service provider to get flawless results.


Medical interpretation is a challenging process. It requires healthcare providers and medical interpreters to work in a lot of areas. They should take care of the best practices so that they can carry out to yield positive outcomes in medical interpretation.

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