When you need medical translation services, you probably have a few main concerns: Will the translation be accurate? Will waiting on the translation put the project behind schedule? And how much will it cost? These are important questions to discuss with your language service provider ahead of time. In fact, your translation team will be glad you’re asking these questions.

But if you really want to go above and beyond, the best thing you can do is inquire about how you can help make the process simple and smooth. Aside from paying on time—which is also much appreciated, of course—getting your “ducks in a row” by carefully following your LSP’s instructions will help to keep the project moving along smoothly.

In this article, we discuss the seven most important ways our life sciences clients help us make their medical translation services go faster, smoother, and easier. Continue reading to find out how you can help us help you on your next translation project.

  1. Whenever possible, send soft copy (native file formats), not scanned hard copy versions. If you’ve never asked, you might not know how translators work. Translators either open the original in its native file format or upload your document into a translation tool, then overtype the text in your document into the target language. So if you send a hard copy, a series of extra steps will be required before we can start the translation and extra steps can affect pricing.

You will save yourself additional fees by making sure to send a clean, native version. Word docs are your best bet, but we can also convert soft copy PDF files to Word and extract the text. If the only version available is a scanned copy, we have to recreate the original document before we can do the translation work. Clearly, it is better to obtain the native file if possible because it will cost you less and take less time to deliver your translation.

  1. Make sure your documents are ship worthy. Did you spell and grammar check your files one last time? Are there any lingering unaccepted changes? Any suggested comments left unresolved? Generally, it is good practice to send only clean, validated files to any third-party vendor. So make sure editing on your end is complete well before you send your document out for medical translation services.

Don’t leave it to chance that your translator will “accept all changes” or make any other assumptions. What would you do if there were a misunderstanding resulting in a mistranslation of key information? Would you even know why your your Chinese, Haitian Creole, or Russian documents were rejected?

  1. Avoid using long file names as de facto file management systems.

Not good:

  • “ICFpharmacogenetic_dated_9-23-16_Can’trememberwhichsitesbutpossiblyDr.BrownVersion 7Aapproved_labelstofollownextweekcheckwithsponsorafterlunch.doc”


  • “ICF_9-23-16-Brown_V7A.doc”

It might seem like we’re being unnecessarily particular here suggesting that you change the names on your files, but in general, brevity is better simply to avoid confusion. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to ask your translator if there’s a naming convention for files that she prefers.

  1. And speaking of naming conventions, use numbers at the start of file names as an easy way to reference multiple documents. Why? If you send 30 unique files with similar names, it can be confusing, especially when this number is then multiplied by a factor of X languages (and then X English back translations on top of that). Is your head spinning yet?

Instead of the following typical file naming:

  • PatientRecruitmentLetterV7a_DraftApproved.doc
  • PatientRecruitmentHIPAA7B_Approved.doc
  • PatientRecruit6-27A_CentralSitesOnly.doc
  • PatientRecruitment_EasternSitesCheckedONLY.doc

Try this method:

  • 01_PatientRecruitmentLetterV7a_DraftApproved.doc
  • 02_PatientRecruitmentHIPAA7B_Approved.doc
  • 03_PatientRecruit6-27A_CentralSitesOnly.doc
  • 04_PatientRecruitment_EasternSitesCheckedONLY.doc

This way, when communicating during the project, you can say “We received Chinese files 01-03, I just need number 04, please” or “We are sending over replacement English files for documents 01 and 04.” To reduce misunderstanding and cut down on delays on both sides, use this simply numbering method.

5. Send only final document versions, not draft versions. Do you have a non-IRB approved Assent File that you’re in a hurry to have translated? Want to send it for translation ahead of time, thinking that the translator can apply any changes to the approved version afterwards? Resist this urge! It is playing with fire. Chances are good that somewhere along the line, there will be an error or omission in your medical translation that may or may not go undetected during the IRB process.

6. The same goes for user manuals where there is a related software product or app. Do not send your supporting documentation for translation ahead of the product release. While this might seem like a time-saver, it is most likely to only cause delays and headaches for you down the road. Despite the time lag, in most cases it will be faster and safer to wait until the final software screen shots and terminology have been fully tested, validated, captured, and approved. Consistency is a virtue here and all it takes is some patience. Being slightly behind schedule is better than having to pay for an entirely new translation of a user manual because your app beta testers found a serious functionality flaw.

7. Avoid using email to send large file attachments. Keep in mind that most email systems have built-in size limits. If there is a 15-megabyte limit (or less) on file attachments and you try to email an 18-megabyte Word file to your LSP, you may or may not get the rejection notification hours (or even days) later—all the while assuming your file was received and is being translated. Not good! Instead, use a free tool like the DTS Online Portal or ShareFile to send files 10 MB or larger. With our portal, you’ll be able to check on the status of your medical translation services throughout the project too.

If you’re new to the concept of the DTS Portal, we’d be happy to give you a demo. This little piece of software magic makes all of our jobs easier. Follow the above seven suggestions and you’ll be well on your way to scoring coveted brownie points with your translation team.

Contact us today with any questions or request a free quote for medical translation services using our handy form.

10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

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