Uses of Translation Services in Healthcare Business

Uses of Translation Services in Healthcare Business
Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy


In the medicine and life sciences industry, translation is of special relevance and importance. Due to language barriers, communication between the doctors and their patients often gets obstructed, which renders healthcare inequitable as well as risky and expensive. If a doctor can't speak the patient's language, he/she won't be able to make a correct diagnosis.

Urgency of Translation in Healthcare and Government Action:

The fallout of language barriers in the US healthcare industry could be alarming, as highlighted by the following facts:

Individuals who have a “limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English” are categorized as having limited English proficiency (LEP).1 The 2000 Census found that over 47 million U.S. citizens or residents aged 5 years and above spoke a language other than English at home, and the percentage of people with LEP grew from 4.8% in 1980 to 8.1% in 2000. The number of LEP persons is projected to grow by 67 million to an estimated 19% of Americans by 2050. (Reference Source)

Giving due cognizance to the critical role that translation can play in plugging the loopholes in healthcare delivery to patients with limited English Proficiency, several laws, both federal and in the states, have already been enacted and implemented.

Benefits of Translation Services in Healthcare

Doctor manuals, medical reports, leaflets, patient records, medical records, prescription information and instructions, translated accurately, enable healthcare companies provide first-rate information. Pharma companies wanting a global expansion of their business find translation services to be a great help, as they can get all their communication material translated into the language spoken in their target country.

While diversity of languages within the healthcare provider population is indeed welcome, professional translators should always be used for facilitating patient/provider information, irrespective of intersections between the language spoken by a physician and his patient.

Working in the above stated direction, a cooperative of nine California public hospitals and their associated community clinics, psychiatric facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and public health departments have implemented shared video translation services with video/voice-over-Internet Protocol call center technology that automatically routes requests for translation in 15 languages to a pool of 30 full-time interpreters and 4 trained bilingual staff.(Reference Source)

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Professional healthcare translators are trained in communicating effectively and are well-versed in medical terminology. Going through extensive testing by certifying bodies ensures that professional translators are qualified in handling medical situations.

Healthcare Translation: Past and the Present

Historically, onsite translators have been relied upon by healthcare organizations for their LEP patients, but in the past few years, technology-enabled remote communication has gained currency. Summarized below are three translation modalities, with their pros and cons described.

Onsite Translation

Often considered the gold standard of translation, onsite translation involves a situation where the provider, the patient, and the translator are present in the same location.


Leads to a high degree of patient satisfaction, as the patient and the translator often form an empathetic bond. And, recent studies at GMR Web Team clearly indicate how getting positive feedback from the patients can help healthcare firms improve their overall growth. Also, there is a better understanding of communication cues that are non-verbal, as all three parties are present in the same room.


Onsite translators are very expensive, since agencies add the transportation costs to and from engagements, apart from the charge for session minimums. Moreover, there is a disadvantage during emergency situations, since the treatment of the patient has to begin immediately and there is no scope to wait for the translator.

Over-the-phone Translation

This situation involves the provider and the patient being in the same location, with the translator dialing into the conversation through a phone. This call can be taken over a speaker phone, or a one with a dual handset.


This is an inexpensive, on-demand and immediate option. Since the translator doesn't need to travel, agencies can staff them on a 24x7 basis right through the year.


The communication can get confusing or slow down, as the translator is unable to access the nonverbal cues of either the provider or the patient.

Video Remote Translation

This form of translation service is the most recent one in the market. In this situation, translators are called upon by the healthcare providers through video technology.


This solution is available on-demand and an immediate basis, with round the clock availability of translators. Moreover, both the provider and the patient benefit from the non-verbal communication. At the same time, it costs less than onsite translation.


This type of translation works only in unemotional, uncomplicated conversations. It's not at all good for group situations, or if the discussion is grave, as in a group therapy session or a discussion that involves euthanasia, for example.


An effective healthcare facility should necessarily offer all these three translation modalities to their patients. Discretion is needed as to employing the right modality depending upon a situation. Provision of quality healthcare entails that when gaps are found between the language spoken by the physician and the language spoken by the patient shouldn't matter, as professional translators should be handling the two-way communication.

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Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy

Beth Worthy is the Cofounder & President of GMR Transcription Services, Inc., a California-based company that has been providing accurate and fast transcription services since 2004. She has enjoyed nearly ten years of success at GMR, playing a pivotal role in the company's growth. Under Beth's leadership, GMR Transcription doubled its sales within two years, earning recognition as one of the OC Business Journal's fastest-growing private companies. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two kids.