Medical document translation: Four main types

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 Healthcare is becoming more globalized each year, and medical workers need to communicate in other languages on a regular basis. Medical document translation makes it possible to treat patients promptly and appropriately, and it allows clinicians and researchers stay current with what’s happening around the world in their specialities. When language barriers are removed, more people can access medical information and life-saving treatments.

Because translating medical terminology requires high levels of precision and deep knowledge of specific specialities, medical document translation is one of the most demanding and complex fields of translation.

Here, we explain the most common types of medical translation and how using professional translators can benefit your business.

Four main types of medical document translation

1. Clinical and hospital documents

This type of translation involves documents for clinical purposes, such as medical forms, informational pamphlets, consent forms, signs and patient instructions. For a patient who needs help understanding their medication, translation that clearly explains the instructions could save their life.

In places where two or more languages are common, medical translations are necessary for providing appropriate and equitable care. For example, many hospitals and medical facilities in the US often require medical translation from English to Spanish. For this type of medical document translation, it’s usually geared towards everyday people rather than medical professionals, so translators have to understand technical terminology and colloquial phrasing in the original and target languages.

This speciality also includes translating medical records, which is needed when people seek treatment in other countries. Imagine that a UK student studying in Poland gets a serious injury that needs to be managed once they return home. Chances are they’re going to need a medical translation from Polish to English, and that’s not a job for a general translator. A translator working on a medical report must translate the information quickly and accurately because someone’s life could depend on it.

2. Pharmaceutical and regulatory documentation

This massive industry within medical document translation includes clinical trial materials and government-required forms. Pharmaceutical companies and research groups perform investigations, enrol people in trials and sell medications around the world. These heavily regulated processes often require English translations as well as documentation in the language of the country where the work is taking place. Typical medical document translations in this field include data collection forms, protocols, investigator’s brochures, medical packaging, ethics committee submissions and monitoring reports.

Inaccuracies or errors in these documents can lead to lawsuits and huge financial losses, so it’s best to use experts for this type of work. For example, translators that specialise in advertising medication translate according to strict government regulations, and those working on adverse event documentation might need highly specific medical training.

3. Scientific articles and academic research

Researchers publish their findings and theories mainly for other scientists and academics, so this type of medical document translation is full of jargon and complicated grammar and vocabulary. Typical documents include research articles, case reports, presentations, grants, books and dissertations.

An interesting aspect of this speciality is that many conferences are held in English and most journals publish only in English, even if they are located in non-English speaking countries. This is why Spanish to English medical translation is one of the most common translation requests. In addition, medical translation from German to English and Italian medical translation are also high in demand in this type of translation.

4. Business and marketing components of medical document translation

The medical and business worlds often overlap. Healthcare companies need to manage a range of complicated technical and legal components, such as patents, agreements, insurance and distribution. In this type of medical document translation, translators should be familiar with the ins and outs of both the applicable medical and business areas.

To attract and engage consumers, healthcare companies need to use more than just websites in their marketing plans. They might use surveys, adverts, apps, social media and newsletters, all of which require translation when targeting markets in other regions. They also need to consider branding and product design, so translators working on these projects should be familiar with the medical and advertising fields.

The benefits of professional medical translation

Quality and accuracy

Professional medical document translation agencies have testing and auditing procedures in place to monitor quality and efficiency because they know that 100% accuracy is necessary to reduce risks. To translate medical terms accurately, translators need to have up-to-date knowledge in a specific field, such as immunology or oncology, and an understanding of how terminology and phrasing is currently being used in the target language.

For example, German medical translation is known to be particularly complicated. For German medical terms, translation into several languages, including Russian and English, is difficult because of its long compound words and problems with non-equivalency. Professional companies vet their translators to ensure they hire qualified personnel who have the necessary cultural and industry knowledge in addition to superb linguistic skills.


Another benefit using a professional agency is their medical document translation services often involve cutting-edge technology, such as AI, and they usually employ large teams across several time zones. By combining expertise, technology and labour force, they can complete top-notch work quickly. They might also employ project managers to keep track of projects, which means that work is completed on time and that multiple projects are consistent.

What to consider when seeking medical translations

Whether you need medical translation from Italian to English, specialised Japanese medical translation or English to French medical translation for regulatory documentation, you should look for an agency that can offer you comprehensive, professional services in one place.

It’s hard to know which translators are right for your project, but when you partner with a professional medical document translation agency, they’ll do that work for you. They’ll worry about screening translators and monitoring quality and deadlines, so you can rest easy knowing you’ll receive high-quality results.

In addition, be sure to search for companies with expertise in your industry, and make sure they offer all the language combinations you need. Simplified procedures reduce hassle, and it helps to work with a company that has a reputation for good customer service.

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