• Ana Sofia Correia

Breaking the language barrier to patient engagement

Updated: Sep 27

Patient engagement is recognized as an important contribution to improved outcomes in clinical research. To ensure that a global population of patients is equally engaged, we must look beyond the English-speaking world. Here’s how medical writing and translation help you tap into the wealth of knowledge that patients from different countries have to offer.

Breaking the language barrier to patient engagement


What is patient engagement?


Patient engagement is the active, meaningful, and collaborative interaction between patients and researchers across all stages of the research process, where decision-making is guided by patients’ contributions as partners, recognizing their specific experiences, values, and expertise.


The goal is to involve patients throughout the medicinal product lifecycle, not simply as end-users but as main drivers. When you conduct research in any given country, working with a native medical writer and translator will allow you to ramp up your patient engagement efforts among that patient population.


Engaging a diverse population of patients requires not only delivering complex scientific and medical information in an appropriate and helpful language but also doing it in the patients’ native language.


How can you engage patients if you don’t speak their language?


You can start by partnering with someone who does.


Medical writers and translators are skilled in presenting complex data in a clear, relevant and compelling manner. Integrating a medical writer and translator into your research team means that they will be able to quickly learn, understand, and interpret your scientific data and communication needs.


Writing for patients


Patient-friendly writing involves generating content that engages, instructs and presents medical evidence, in a way that is truly informative and is visually impactful — by using plain language and visual aids such as graphics, figures and images.


A medical writer will help you to produce high-quality tailored information that allows patients to become more aware and involved in their care. Access to knowledge will make patients feel more in control and willing to participate in the decision-making.


Translating for patients


Medical translators come into play when you need to target your patient engagement efforts to other countries.


Since the translation must be as accessible and understandable as the materials you designed, a native medical translator will adapt your text and visual elements while observing your original writing style and tone, as well as advise you if they come across with terminology, tools or processes that don’t work for the target audience.


As a final note, excluding patients from a trial because of the language barrier is a questionable practice. With the increase of multinational trials, it’s time to apply the same principle to all stages of the trial design and implementation process.


Benefiting from patients’ input – regardless of their native language – will enhance enrollment and retention, as well as improve outcomes throughout research sites. Relying on professional medical writing and translation services will help you achieve that.


Ana Sofia is an English to Portuguese medical translator and writer working with Life Sciences companies, Contract Research Organizations, and Medical Communication agencies. She has experience translating and writing content for clinical trials, medical devices, regulatory submissions, education and marketing campaigns, and scientific publications.

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