What are the Key Challenges in Healthcare and Medical Translation?

The science behind medical translation

What are the Key Challenges in Healthcare and Medical Translation?

Professional medical translators play an essential role in healthcare and the medical industry. They are solely responsible for translating all types of medical procedures and breakthroughs from one language to another accurately, which benefits every patient, particularly non-native speakers, foreigners, and minorities, to easily understand the relevant health and medical information. 

However, unlike other types of documents, the scientific translation of necessary healthcare and medical documents is not that easy. Medical translation requires total accuracy and precision because it is often technical and is critical to a patient's health and wellbeing. In addition, medical translators face several challenges, including scientific and health-related terms, namely new diseases and therapies, medical jargon, readability, understandability, technical matters, medical research, and the unique characteristics of medical terminology such as :

  1. Eponyms and multi-word terms
  2. Acronyms and abbreviations
  3. Polysemy and synonymy
  4. Doublet phenomenon
  5. Word compounding

The Role of A Medical Translator

Medical translation should be done without any flaws. In a multicultural country like the United States, healthcare service providers can treat up to ten different patients on a daily basis who have limited English speaking proficiency. Some may even be unable to speak the language entirely.


Medical translators come into the limelight during these circumstances as patients would not be able to read nor understand their diagnosis and prescription without their help, making their work vital. These professional translators help bridge the language barriers between the healthcare providers and their patients so that the correct medical diagnosis and appropriate treatment can be given. 

Medical Terminologies

Medical terms or jargon can be very complicated, and the scientific translation should therefore be completely accurate for both precious lives and careers that took years to be established are at stake. This is why medical translation requires a specialist who is knowledgeable in the medical and healthcare domain. The medical terminology used must be specific and therefore experience in the relevant medical field will almost certainly be required from the translator. 


There are many types of doctors - each with different medical specialties. They can be surgeons, neurologists, gynecologists, obstetricians, to name but a few. Specialization similarly applies to medical translators. For example, a professional medical translator who specializes in virology cannot be expected to work on translating medical documents that require expertise in fields such as hematology and oncology. Solely focusing on the area that they specialize in ensures that their translations are correct, accurate and subject-specific.

Intended Audience

Finally, like any other translations, the use of words and the way information will be conveyed will depend on the intended readership. Your audience will either be medical experts or non-professionals, and the scientific translation services should know how to be flexible in dealing with those specialized communities to ensure such groups are not excluded from accessing any necessary medical treatment. 

Something to Think About

There is a huge weight on the shoulders of the healthcare and medical translators brought about by the key challenges mentioned above. For us to be able to successfully advance in necessary medical care, the scientific translation services must continue to work hard to help overcome the language barrier in this increasingly important industry.

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