Translating and localizing for patients
Updated: Jan 8
When it comes to patient-facing materials, translation and localization professionals provide valuable insights by taking into account the actual characteristics of that particular patient community – and language is just one of them.
In August, I had the pleasure of hosting a Multilingual Summer Series panel with Anna Richards, Kokoro Yoshikawa, and Trishna Baradia about “Capturing the patient’s voice in translation.”
This is the second part of a series of articles I am writing on the topic, entirely derived from Anna, Kokoro, and Trishna’s insights:
Part two – Translating and localizing for patients
Is your project truly global?
In the life sciences industry, when organizations put together global projects, they tend to consider Western Europe and North America without actually considering the rest of the world. Therefore, they are not truly global.
Some organizations may see the translation step as irrelevant since people in those regions seem to have a good command of the English language and can keep up with meetings and understand information.
For example, several organizations are now putting together patient advisory councils to get the patient voice heard. However, can we say that these initiatives are genuinely global when they include only a minor portion of the population, based on their level of English proficiency?
Organizations need to ask themselves: What do we need? Who are we trying to reach? How do we get a diverse patient voice involved?
That is where translation comes in. There is still a lot of work to be done to make sure that non-English speakers are well informed and engaged. Creating global materials is not just about language; there are cultural aspects and daily habits to consider.
In addition, with technology comes a diversity of channels to get feedback from patients and actually reach everyone. Using devices (such as study apps or wearable devices) will give patients the ability to engage and contribute in different ways.
What about accessibility?
Translation and localization encompass so much more; it is not just about the words themselves. It is everything that goes around it.
For example, we could translate something, but that patient group would have a lot of difficulties reading it because it's heavily formatted or stylized, or the font is too small, or characters appear unusually on the page.
This issue is no longer just a matter of changing one language to another. It is also a matter of how this information benefits the patient, whether they can see it, read it, or follow it.
We know how valuable it is to make sure that all patients can shape the healthcare journey and the medicines development life cycle. That's why we need to make sure that patient engagement opportunities are equitable and open to all.
That might mean providing translation services to ensure that opportunities are advertised differently to other communities and people who are just getting on with their day-to-day lives and living with a condition.
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.