Ideally, medical translation services employ professionals who understand the demands of the industry and the complexity of the documents they tackle. Medical translation is an essential task, and it includes working with a wide variety of documents, knowing what to do with highly specialized terminology and understanding the purpose of the translation and the intentions of the original document’s writer or speaker.

When your organiztion requires professional medical translation services, choosing a medical translation partner based on a low, standard, per-word rate can be tempting. Your cost-consciousness makes sense, and we here at DTS aim to offer competitive rates. The truth, however, is that a standardized per-word rate is not a useful metric in assessing potential partners in the medical translation industry.

Why? Every medical translation project, document and strategy requires a unique evaluation and approach. That’s why you shouldn’t want any pricing until the medical translation agency has evaluated and understood the full scope of the project. Until a medical translation company has comprehensive information, a per-word rate is either meaningless or rote: it overcharges simple projects and doesn’t account for the translation quality control needed for more complicated ones.

As Duncan Shaw, president of DTS Language Services, explains “Per-word rate pricing for translation makes sense and is appropriate for very large-scale or long-term translation projects; however, the better metric to consider is hourly costs, as that is more universally recognized across most industries.  Our hourly fees factor in the staff time (project managers, translators, editors, layout specialists) and the languages that you need, to name just two factors.

We can only do accurate calculations after learning everything about the project.  We don’t want to shroud our pricing structure in mystery — just the opposite. We want to make you happy as a client, and in order to do that, we need to establish a relationship of trust. You need quality, honesty, integrity and our best work.”

You should look at any medical translation services company who quotes a per-word rate for a medical translation project without asking you for this information with skepticism. Unfortunately, they might not have the staff or the oversight to care about what makes your project unique and implement it. After all, they haven’t bothered to listen to your needs before quoting a price.

Rather than asking about a per-word medical translation rate, the following questions can help determine the value and cost of working with a medical translation partner:

  • What type of documents do they translate? An ICF is different from a chemical compounds list, a Regulatory Affairs document, or a Medical Device IFU.
  • How many years of experience do they have? Years of experience translate into a proven process to minimize risk and the proper terminology necessary for medical translations.
  • Which specific languages are needed for translation? Content and messages of a scientific nature have their own jargon and terminology that only an expert translator in the field can yield in the target language in the correct and appropriate way.
  • Is the grammatical structure different for this project? Working with medical text, a translator must first identify its register and translate this to the target language. This can be hard when one term exists in either the source or target language and when several terms exist in the second language.
  • Is this a one-time document or part of a larger effort? In most cases using the same medical translator, editor and project manager saves time in the long run. Especially Document length and overall fit of a specific document into your goals and project.
  • Does the medical translation agency have the capacity to rush a job? When you have tight deadlines, and extremely fast turnaround requirements, knowing that the agency can still ensure the highest level of accuracy and meet your needs is critical.

Without asking for details, no medical translator can be honest about their ability to meet your needs. Furthermore, medical translation is a field in which you rely on experts to evaluate whether the finished product accomplishes your goals. As in other expert fields, that comes with a full consultation and planning to follow up and follow through.

Shaw offers this analogy: “Imagine that after a complete physical, your doctor says you need surgery. When the hospital gives you a quote, you don’t quibble over how much incisions cost by the inch, what the going rate is for a pint of blood or what the surgeon charges per stitch. You get a project price and trust your procedure will be performed with the highest quality and attention to detail. Reputable medical translation services work like that, too.”

We at DTS Language Services are here to work with you and be medical translation partners you can trust. Contact us today to discuss your needs. We guarantee we will listen and be both honest and fair.