Clinical Trial Translation Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Clinical Trials Translation, Language

When you’re working on a translation project for a clinical trial, the stakes are high. Of course, the health and safety of patients is a top priority, and accurate translation is a critical piece of that. Beyond that, market opportunities could be delayed – or lost – when there are problems with your translated clinical trial documents. Of course, the actual language translation is only one facet of a successful clinical trial consent documentation project. 

Although you might run into problems with the translation aspect of your project, you’re just as likely to run into issues with other parts of the project. For example, logistics, technology (such as portal access), and project management can pose their own challenges.

We will discuss how to limit these issues with translation projects to ensure the most accurate and timely project possible. Finally, we’ll highlight some of the common mistakes – and what to do to avoid them – that we’ve seen over the last five decades of delivering tens of thousands of clinical trial documents in over one hundred languages. 

Mistake #1: Not Using a User-Friendly Portal 

These days, all major translation providers have some portal to help clients interact with them and share documents. It’s imperative that your translation provider has one. If your provider doesn’t offer a user-friendly portal, it leaves you vulnerable to significant complications.

Portals are essential to us because they simplify communications and avoid multiple long chains of emails. In addition, they allow the workflow for each project to be in one place. This makes it easier to stay organized during your project.

Of course, this also means that everyone on the project has access to the workflow. This dramatically reduces errors and misunderstandings, as people aren’t accidentally left out of email chains.

This is especially critical if you have projects at scale. A portal helps limit the impact of turnover on your and your provider’s teams. Any new member can be added to a project and instantly have access to all instructions and dialogue to bring them up to speed.

One last tip for you if you have a more extensive operation: It’s like wearing a pair of shoes you plan on wearing every day. Make sure the provider you’ll use frequently has a portal and process that is the right fit for your team. Every portal is different, so it’s imperative that you find a platform that supports your team well – and makes your life easier.

Mistake #2: Too Many Hand Offs

The best way to think of this mistake is with what we call “The Bucket Analogy”. You may have heard it before:

Imagine you must get a full bucket of water from one side of a field to another. If you have to pour the water from one bucket to another, every transfer presents an opportunity for water to be lost. As a principle, the fewer transfers – the less water is lost.

The same is true from a project management perspective. When a project is handed off, there is room for mistakes, and we’re trying to avoid mistakes wherever possible. Unfortunately, most of the translation industry ignores this principle. You may have already experienced this. It’s common when working with a large translation company for you to encounter the following people in the span of one project: 

  1. A salesperson
  2. A quote team (also the salesperson in some cases)
  3. A project manager (often being passed between managers)
  4. A translator
  5. A quality control person (if they offer it)

If you’ve worked with translators long enough, you can probably recall a time that the handoff between these steps ended up with miscommunications and re-explanations. If you want to avoid this, here’s what to look for:

Vertical Org Structure vs. Flat Org Structure

There are two types of organizational structures that a company could employ: vertical and flat organizational structures.

The term ‘vertical organizational structures’ refers to unspecialized companies that are large with many departments that you may have to interact with. For example, marketing, sales, intake, and more. So, your project will move from department to department; it will be handed off frequently, as discussed above.

In contrast, a flat organizational structure has less variation in departments, meaning that the same people from the start will conduct the same project to finish. At DTS, we have specialists at each layer. Still, your point of contact (project manager) will stay with you from your first contact to final delivery, ensuring you have a professional on the vendor side ensuring consistency in your project.

Projects and orders often need clarification and develop nuance, which is hard to communicate in a “whisper down the lane” style. The same group must work on your project throughout the entire process because they’re familiar with the nuances of your project in ways that a new department wouldn’t be.

Mistake #3: Not Enough Time for Translation Reviews

This catches people off guard regularly. It’s all too common to see a translation service – especially one unfamiliar with the clinical trial process – not leave time for translation reviews and certification.

Since their team and project managers are unlikely to anticipate that need in your project, it’s up to you to ensure that there is enough time for their team or another team to perform translation reviews.

Another way projects misstep is by doing the translation review after the document is laid out in a final formatted document. Formatted documents are far less compatible with a careful review, as they look “ready to go” even if they’re not. So, be sure that your translation is reviewed before it’s put into the final formatted document.

Unsurprisingly, some providers don’t have a built-in protocol to review translations, so ask about it before you start working on your project. If you comment about a review process before you start, you’re more likely to avoid problems at the end of the project. 

Avoid Translation Mistakes with Specialized Support

While there are steps you can take to avoid these mistakes on your own, providers like DTS have taken the initiative to build their businesses to accommodate your unique industry needs. Our specialization is clinical trial translation as well as other high-stakes medical needs. 

Each of these three points can derail a translation project, so we’ve designed our business to eliminate them with:

  1. One of the industry’s most customizable client portals
  2. A single project manager for every client to deliver what you expect.
  3. An integrated review and certification process that covers your unique industry needs and timelines.

If you’d like to learn more about how working with DTS can turn translation from a headache to a strength, we invite you to open a conversation with a member of our team.

10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

10 Tips For Your Next Translation Project (Video)

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