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Quality Assurance in Medical Translation Service

Author: Andreea Balaoiu

Quality Assurance in Medical Translation Service

In an article on Quality Assurance in Medical Translation, Translators and interpreters are essential in the Healthcare world, but they are “rarely the focus of healthcare researchers' attention unless a mistranslation triggers severe clinical consequences, including health or life-threatening situations.” It is, therefore, crucial to ensure sufficient quality standards in medical translation and interpreting.

In this article, we will tackle the topic of Quality Assurance in the Medical Translation and Localization field, overviewing the translation quality management procedures, and focusing on the value of QA and LQA within the end-to-end localization process.

The value and implications of QA in the Medical Translation field

The Healthcare communications field is highly influenced by the focus and attention on the patient, with a stringent need to ensure qualified medical translators and interpretation expertise to facilitate the mediation in interlingual and intercultural medical settings.

Medical Translation and Localization Quality Assurance is highly emphasized when considering the risks and severe clinical consequences triggered in the absence of them. Translation errors in scientific articles and presentations not only affect the reputation of healthcare professionals but can also mislead physicians or patients if vital pieces of clinical and medical information are mistranslated or misinterpreted.

To successfully achieve the goal of Quality Medical Translation and Localization, it is necessary to have a clear understanding of the criteria that define a good translation. This task is not simply limited to identifying the goals of medical translation; it also involves defining which tools are needed to achieve these goals.

Translation Quality Assurance (TQA) represents a comprehensive process of ensuring quality translation and localization output, involving the acquisition, training and management of qualified “humanware” (Linguistic Project Managers, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and Linguistic Analysts) and their respective tools (hardware and software).

In order to ensure standards-compliant Translation Quality Assurance, Language Services Providers (LSPs) are required to devise and optimize long-term, comprehensive strategies for providing the relevant training and feedback to linguistic vendors involved in the processes, as well as for the internal management of translation assets such as client Translation Memories (TMs), term bases and Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools.

On the other hand, Linguistic Quality Control (LQC) implies more specific, short-term procedures, which make up a solid segment of the entire Translation Quality Assurance process.
Linguistic Quality Control (LQC) entails fine-tuning the final translation product, ensuring that there are no blatant flaws and that the linguistic steps of the process (translation, editing, proofreading) have been successfully performed in terms of resolving inconsistencies, misspellings and mismatches.

The Medical Translation Quality Assurance process can be easily summarized in three main steps:

  1. Planning Phase: Quality Management

    - Involving qualified translation vendors, proof-readers and SMEs
    - Ensuring quality standards are met
    - Employing CAT Tools, TMs, glossaries, style guides, additional references, etc.

  2. Performance Phase: Quality Assurance Performance

    - Using a wide range of specialized QA tools and the QA functionality integrated in various CAT tools
    - Setting-up a troubleshooting communication platform for consistency and terminology checks

  3. Control Phase: Quality Control

    - Proofreading, third-party review or LQA (Linguistic Quality Assurance)
    - Running QA checks for spelling, segment-level consistency, numeric mismatch, terminology mismatch, missing translations, punctuation issues

The specific requirements and demands of these translation projects are met through QA modules embedded in CAT tools, which cover Quality control parameters such as terminology, formatting, punctuation, missing or incomplete translations and local standards compliance.

The most popular CAT tools used in QA Verification are memoQ, SDL Trados Studio, Across, Wordfast, and others, which have integrated, configurable QA functions that prove beneficial for any translator or Quality Assurance analyst in reviewing the translation performance profile.

In very complex translation projects, where quality requirements and standards must be fully met without exceptions, standalone Quality Assurance software tools are also employed in terms of cross-checking generic and specific inconsistencies and generating reports to showcase the performance metrics of the respective translation (e.g. the most widely used tools are Verifika, Xbench, QA Distiller, Linguistic Toolbox).

The role of Back-Translation in Medical Localization Quality Assurance

Back Translation can be defined as a translation of a previously translated text back into the source language text, without any references from the original source.

Purpose of Back Translation
Back translation is frequently used as a method of comparing the translation accuracy of the original translation.

When applied to the life science sector, back translation is frequently used in various areas, for example, clinical trials, where translation has to be very accurate. In addition, back translation is a requirement of high-profile Institutional Review Boards (IRB) and the EU Ethics Committee (EC).

Back-translations are largely employed by pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, Contract Research Organizations (CROs), and Language Service Providers (LSPs) as risk management tool in clinical and pharmaceutical protocols and reports, ICFs and patient consent forms.

The top benefits of QA-optimized Medical Translation and Localization

In our experience, the top benefits of ensuring thorough Localization Quality Assurance within the Medical and Lifesciences industry can be summed up as follows:

  • Achieving consistent quality across the board via SME, TM and TEP
  • Meeting regulatory medical compliance requirements in the global market
  • Streamlining translation efficiency and reducing error risk using automation

For example, medical device manufacturers must comply with a wide range of regulatory requirements, from those related to product safety and efficacy to those that involve manufacturing quality. On top of this, the global market for medical devices is growing rapidly. In order for medical device manufacturers to remain competitive in this environment, they need to meet all regulatory requirements and ensure that their products are safe and effective for consumers, where a thorough localization of their regulatory documentation comes into play.

In an article published by Accenture, a leading Information Technology company, “employing the benefits of the latest AI technologies, [they] worked toward a proof of concept solution to help generate additional efficiencies for translating drug safety case source documents. Together [they] formed a project team of experts on machine learning (ML) and pharmacovigilance to pilot an AI-powered translation assistant using existing Google technology. [their] preliminary POC (proof of concept) targeted translating reports from Portuguese to English where Accenture’s team of medical translators reviewed 100% of the AI-translations for accuracy, making modifications to both ensure quality and to help the platform learn.”

The example of this pioneering project is one of the many that set out to prove how Medical Translation Quality Assurance can be streamlined by infusing intelligent technologies with improved capabilities, to cover more ground and scale the linguistic output within healthcare translation and localization.

The Bottom Line

Harnessing years of experience in the medical translation field, AD VERBUM has consistently proven a quality-oriented and tailored approach to life sciences, in compliance with industry-specific standards and requirements, applying custom solutions and high-end quality control across all of our business practices.

The stringent requirements of the life sciences industry are not foreign to any linguistic entrepreneur. The strict regulations and quality demands of the sector represent the key elements that launch this field into the global market and make it so sought after.

AD VERBUM is well-versed in a wide range of translation and localization services covering the spectrum of life sciences, ranging from medical devices to pharmaceutical, clinical trials, patient documentation, healthcare support documentation, and medical back translations, guiding you through the processes and ensuring that transnational regulations and standards are adequately met.

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