10 Things We’ve Learned in 40+ Years in the Life Sciences and Medical Translation Industry

Language Service Provider (LSP), Medical Document Translations, Medical Translation Services

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In the past 40 years, a lot has changed about doing business internationally and a lot has changed about the translation industry. When DTS Language Services, Inc. started out as a life science translation company, called Duke Translation Services, in 1973, we delivered translated documents via fax and through the mail. It’s hard to believe!

However, while innovations in technology have changed the way we deliver life science and medical document translations, the way we do business has stayed fundamentally consistent. Staying true to our values and the core of our work has enabled our company to thrive through so much change. We continue to take pride in our record of delivering accurate translations on time and on budget for every project. 

As we consider the past, one thing is for sure—we’ve learned a lot. Here are 10 things we’ve learned in the past 40+ years of serving our life science and medical document translation clients in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and all around the world:

1. When you treat people with respect, you earn their respect in return.

This may be common sense, but when it comes to doing business successfully, it’s one of the core rules. Similar to the Golden Rule, the concept expressed here has rung true for as long as human beings have walked the Earth: when you approach others with respect, they have good reason to return the same. 

Yes, respect has to be earned, but have you considered that one way to earn respect is to treat others with respect? When your default mode is to treat every person you encounter with respect, you will discover a lot about the people you meet. Because you will be more inclined to listen and slow to judge, you’ll be more likely to hear—really hear—your customers’ pain points and be able to address their needs. 

We have learned to treat everyone—potential clients, current clients, past clients, partners, and stakeholders—with respect and it has served us well. This is one reason clients often respond with praise for our customer service

2. Subject matter expertise matters in life science translation.

Many translation agencies boast about staffing generalists who can translate everything from life sciences and medical documents to legal and financial texts. However, if you have an original document that was written by a subject matter expert using technical jargon and language designed to communicate with other experts, a generalist translator simply will not return an accurate translation. This is especially true when it comes to medical document translation, legal document translation, and other technical areas. 

 Even the best trained generalists are no match for subject matter experts with medical document translation skills. Because medical records and other medical document translations need to be 100% accurate, you don’t want to trust your translation projects to generalists. We match our vetted translators, who are native language speakers with expertise in different therapeutic areas living and working around the world, with your specific project needs. 

In addition to being expertise-driven, we can also help you meet Small Business set-aside requirements. Bigger is not always better. If you’re running a clinical trial for which you’re receiving federal funds, you need to follow certain rules when hiring vendors such as language service providers. We’re proud to be able to deliver exceptional results without charging the exorbitant fees you see with some of the behemoth translation companies out there.

3. Investing in strong business partnerships is a smart use of resources.

Competition ebbs and flows in the language industry, as it does in all industries. However, we’ve learned that with our decades in the industry, our longevity gives us an advantage. We’ve been battle tested and so we can promise our long-standing clients that we aren’t going anywhere. 

One of the reasons we’ve been able to provide translation services for more than 40 years is that partnership is part of our culture. We don’t simply want to be your translation agency, we want to be your language services partner. This attitude has allowed us to deliver for thousands of clients and we look forward to serving thousands more.

Additionally, we have built strong partnerships with our translators and other business partners who support us as we strive to grow strategically. The translation industry is a really strong community and throughout the years, we’ve developed strong relationships with other industry leaders. We absolutely believe we are stronger together. If you have ideas for partnerships we could pursue, please contact us.

4. You’re human and so are we!

This is a big one, actually. We have learned that global life sciences clients don’t simply want service, they want access—meaningful access. Can you pick up the phone and call your language service provider? Can you meet with them in their offices face-to-face? Will their team meet with your team virtually or in the office to hammer out the details on your project? 

Even as more of the world becomes digitized, everyone still appreciates great customer service. In fact, we would argue that in the digital age, customer service is more important than ever. It doesn’t really matter how quickly a job gets done if the job isn’t done well and the only thing more frustrating than that is not being able to talk to someone to fix the problem. So, we focus on ensuring that every job is done right the first time and hitting this goal often depends on stellar communication.  

For this reason, we always invest in people first. We believe: if you treat your people well, they will treat you and your customers well. If you have a question we always encourage you to pick up the phone. Open communication often saves our customers time and money. We’ve seen it time and time again. 

A conversation with your dedicated project manager can answer your question quickly, so you can get back to work. Since we realize that in many cases, talking to a live person is simply more effective, we do what we can to make sure getting the support you need is easy.

5. It rarely makes sense to cobble together services.

Small and mid-sized pharma, medical device, and CRO organizations rely on outsourcing some tasks to strong partners and are smart to manage as few of these relationships as possible. Document translation services are no exception to this recommendation. 

When you’re managing a clinical trial, for example, there simply is not enough time in the day to manage one company to translate clinical study protocols, another to do packaging and drug label translation, and yet another to do all the case report forms. You need to find a provider with a practical, comprehensive, and experienced approach. 

At DTS, we understand the on-the-ground needs of clinical teams and we’re ready to go to work for you! Our services go beyond document translations too. As part of our comprehensive language service offerings, we also offer transcription services in a variety of industries and on-demand phone interpretation. Even beyond these services, we have a wealth of knowledge to share about taking your business global. We’ve definitely seen some things in our 40 years. We are happy to be a sounding board for global business strategy.

6. Regulations are complicated and constantly changing.

Yes, this comes as no surprise to most people with a pulse. Regulations are highly complex and change a lot and they should! Consumer safety depends on regulations. As we continually explore new ways to improve our translation processes around clinical development, we need to stay up-to-date on regulation changes. For this reason, we keep our ears to the ground and listen carefully for cues from our clients. We and the global teams we support need to be agile enough to respond to regulatory changes across different international agencies charged with enforcing compliance.

If you’re a regulatory affairs manager, we understand your daily tasks can add up really quickly. That’s why we’re here to support you in your role. We’ll take your translation needs off your plate, so you can focus on overseeing your clinical trial teams. In this high-stress, fast-paced position, we know you don’t have time to micromanage every vendor. Our expertise means that we’re ready to hit the ground running on your project.

7. Technology is wonderful, but it can’t solve every problem and it can cause problems.

We have benefited from advances in technology right along with every other business that has been around for 40+ years. However, we’ve also seen the other side. Companies that rely too much on technology often skip steps in business planning, forget about defining best practices, let training programs fall away, and miss other crucial elements that give teams the foundation they need to use their systems most effectively.

We’ve learned not to jump too quickly into the newest, shiniest piece of trendy technology available. Technology employed without solid business processes and without people having the skills to use the technology is a bit like watching a shopping cart careening down a hill: all speed and no control. We would much rather adopt technology that enhances the work done by our talented and skilled human colleagues than chase down the latest tech promising to replace that talent.

8. Sharing is caring.

Science is a collaborative endeavor at its core. It’s also a common language spoken by trained professionals in every corner of the globe. With every new clinical trial, every new drug discovered, every new medical device developed, we learn something about humanity and the world which we inhabit. We’re constantly in awe of the brilliant scientific minds asking and answering deep, difficult questions. We admire how much information gets shared between life science and medical experts.

As the research environment expands, so does the need for support of the global teams doing the work. We all would do well to streamline the sharing of information. At DTS, we’re ready to offer our assistance with medical document translation and on-demand phone interpreting services. We recognize the importance of our work when it comes to enabling medical teams around the world to share information that could revolutionize patient care.

9. No one knows your industry like you do.

We are big believers in allowing specialists and experts to do what they do best. This means we defer to our clients when it comes to telling us what they need to do their jobs well. Now, this does not mean that we won’t chime in when there’s a question where our expertise comes into play. We know our industry too!

Again, we see ourselves as your language partner and we believe the more we understand about your project, the better we’ll be able to support you. With open dialogue between all business units and carefully orchestrated milestones appropriate for each project, we ensure that the results meet or exceed your expectations. So we’re big on transparency and happy to brainstorm with you to figure out what that partnership ultimately looks like.

10. “Every word counts and every person matters.”

As President and CEO, Duncan Shaw, says, “every word counts, and every person matters.” This sums up the ideology we follow at DTS Language Services, Inc. Whether your life science translation project involves 500 words or 500,000 words, you will receive the same standard of service—guaranteed. 

At DTS, we believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and care. What does this look like? It’s simple: We strive to engage every customer on a professional level each and every time. We actively listen during all meetings and conversations. We return all calls and emails promptly and we treat deadlines as promises. 

Thank you for taking the time to read about our lessons learned. It’s truly a privilege to partner with clinical professionals doing important work to make lives better around the world. Together, we are forging the way forward to the future in the life sciences and medical industries. We look forward to sharing more of our lessons with you as we grow our high-volume medical document translation company.

If you have a question about your translation project or are ready for a quote for document translation services, please contact us using this form or pick up the phone and call 800-524-0722 or 919-719-1406. We are ready to partner with you!