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Best Practices for Translating Patient Education Content

Woman doctor speaking with pregnant patient, smiling.

In any healthcare setting, patient education is vital to the outcomes of care. Unfortunately, patients with limited-English proficiency (LEP) don't always have access to patient education materials that have been properly translated. While many providers try to implement strategies to ensure access to translated materials, relying on ineffective methodologies to translate content can put LEP patients at an even greater risk than they already are. Below is a look at the importance of adequate translation for patient education content and a few best practices to keep in mind. 

The Importance of Patient Education Content Translation 

LEP patients must be able to rely on accurate information disclosure. These patients are often at risk for higher rates of hospital readmissionlonger hospital stays, and even medical errors due to not understanding the information they are given during a healthcare appointment. On the most basic level, adequate patient education translation ensures this vulnerable population has access to care information just the same as everyone else. 

Common Problems With Document Translation 

Several issues are common when it comes to content translation for LEP patient education purposes. According to the TOOLKIT for Making Written Material Clear and Effective by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the most common problems with translated healthcare content include: 

  • The translation has no cultural consideration 
  • The translated materials are not translated according to accepted language norms and patterns 
  • Terms within a translated document are difficult to translate properly
  • The text is too complicated for the intended audience
  • The translated document contains significant mistranslations or errors 

Best Practices to Remember When Translating Patient Education Content 

1. Prioritize your content for translation 

Not all types of patient education content need to be translated. Some information is better delivered orally with an interpreter. For example, if you need to share sensitive information about a diagnosis, this is information better discussed than simply communicated in text. Types of content that may need translation include items like brochures explaining the risks of illness within the community or documents explaining what to expect during a treatment procedure. 

2. Review the content before translation 

Starting with clean content before translation is important to ensure the resulting translated document is accurate and easy to read and understand once it is translated. Prior to translation, review the content for things like simplifying terminology, shortening sentences, and looking for concepts that may be a challenge to translate. 

3. Translate for meaning with cultural sensitivity in mind 

The problem with the most rudimentary document translation programs is they translate a document word for word. Not all languages have words to use that have an aligned meaning with other languages. Instead, the goal should always be to translate for meaning by looking at the meaning of a word or phrase and translating according to that understanding. Cultural sensitivity is also something that must be considered. Using a translator that has some understanding of the culture they're translating for helps ensure the right phrases and terminologies are used. 

4. Work with professional translators 

Professional translators from language service providers are typically the best route to take for content translation. A certain level of cultural understanding, language pattern knowledge, and written skills are required. For example, GLOBO offers the ability to leverage professionals who are based in the country where unique languages are spoken, which gives them first-hand cultural understanding. 

Achieve the Most Accurate Content Translation With GLOBO

Trusting document translation to professionals with linguistic skills and cultural experience to make sure messages are conveyed properly is one of the most important things you can do when providing care to LEP patients. GLOBO can help with document translation in over 350 languages to communicate with people when it matters most. 

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