Translating Patient-Facing Content: Challenges and Solutions

Miloš Matović 11 months ago Comment

Patient-facing content includes all medical and pharmaceutical materials targeted at patients and end users who are not necessarily familiar with expert terminology and procedures.

Depending on their purpose, these materials may cover a wide range of topics, from legal information to instructions for use of medical devices, and all of this must be conveyed in a clear and unambiguous manner to make the information understandable to the non-expert target audiences.

Patient-facing materials in everyday use

Patient-facing content is virtually everywhere: from marketing materials that ranges from advertisements to medicinal product brochures and various promotional articles written to educate patients on their conditions and treatments and to provide lifestyle advice, to package inserts (or patient information leaflets or PILs) and drug packaging and labels.

In other words, every medical and pharmaceutical content that is not written for healthcare professionals and/or regulators can be qualified as patient-facing content.

Patient-facing materials in clinical trials

Materials such as informed consent forms, treatment descriptions, investigational medicinal product information, legal and financial information, as well as any materials used during the subject recruitment phase, are essential in every clinical trial.

These materials provide the study subjects with the relevant complete and accurate information about the trial, the involved risks and benefits, as well as their rights and obligations and the full implications of their consent.

In addition, it is important that various legal and regulatory requirements are met in the language of the patient-facing materials.

Translating patient-facing materials

While medical translators are well-versed in medical and pharmaceutical terminology and procedures by definition, in these cases they need to execute their translations knowing that the target audiences are the people who may have never heard of urticaria, but who are certainly aware of hives.

Although this may seem easy, it is not uncommon that these translations actually require more effort and linguistic skill than translation of materials for healthcare professionals simply due to their nature and purpose.

They also carry another layer of responsibility – poorly styled or wrong translation may unintentionally mislead a study subject/patient both in terms of use and side effects of a medicinal product, as well as the legal aspects of clinical trials.

For these reasons, it is essential to assemble a linguist team with the appropriate experience and clear understanding of the material purpose and information about the target audiences.

While it is always a good idea to use common terms for medical conditions and procedures when they are available, this does not mean that general quality standards can be omitted and that slang terms may be used.

It is always useful to have a linguist checklist for translation of patient-facing materials that may include the following items:

  •       Use short and clear sentences.
  •       Avoid the syntax of the source material. If any sentence in the source language is too long or too complex, split it in two or more sentences.
  •       Use common terms and avoid expert terminology.
  •       Alternatively, use common terms with expert terms/scientific names in parentheses.
  •       Pay close attention to clarity and accuracy of the sections explaining how to use medicinal products, legal implications of consent form, risks, benefits and side-effects.
  •       Ask yourself if your grandmother could understand the translation (unless she happens to be a healthcare professional).

Application of translation technologies

Translation technologies and digital translation assets can be (and are) used on these projects to cut expenses and shorten the turnaround time, but only in cases where the existing assets were used on previous projects for the same target audiences.

For example, a translation memory or a termbase developed and used for translation of scientific materials, study protocols, SmPCs and other materials targeted at healthcare professionals may not be of much help in these cases.

It is therefore a good idea to develop and maintain separate translation assets on the basis of target audiences and purpose.

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