May 28, 2023
Lost in Translation: Breaking the Clinical Trials Language Barrier
Ana Sofia Correia
Medical translator and writerGuest
In this episode, freelance medical translator Ana Sofia Correia joins us to discuss the need for translation in clinical trials. She explains the risks if clinical trial material is biased towards English-speaking populations and the need for cultural sensitivity when translating content into local languages. Ana Sofia also reflects on the benefits AI could have on the industry and for translators.
“While AI can be a powerful tool, it cannot replace human translators because there are still many aspects of translation that require human judgment and human expertise, such as the ability to understand those cultural nuances.”
Pecan OK. So now we're recording. I am going to read the introduction just to remind you that if you do stumble or if you are, you want to repeat something you don't need to ask me, you can just start it again. So yeah, so I'm talking.
You can mute and vice versa to avoid background noise. Oh, OK. OK, great. So here is the introduction.
3, 2, 1. The role of translation in clinical research came onto my radar during a recent podcast with Pilar Nunez of non-profit Greta gift, where she highlighted the importance of speaking the language of patients for better communication during clinical trials. From then on, the subject was really one I wanted to explore further. So when I was contacted by freelance medical translator Ana Sofia Carrara, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more.
And Anna Sofia is here with me today. Welcome to Totally Clinical. Hyena and Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure to be here.
Great so, as I just mentioned in the introduction, you are a medical translator for clinical trials. Could you start by explaining more about what that means and why it matters? Well, sure. So as a medical translator for clinical trials, I'm responsible for translating the several types of documents related to clinical research.
And this can include study protocols, informed consent forms, patient questionnaires and other materials that may be necessary for the conduct of a clinical trial. And the reason why my role the role of all medical translators is so important is because that clinical trials are often multi, multicentric and multinational, and they involve participants from multiple countries. And these participants have different cultural backgrounds, speak different languages. So in order for these studies to be conducted ethically and with scientific rigor, participants need to fully understand the information they are given.
And that includes the risks and benefits of the trial, the procedures that are involved, and their rights as participants. So this is where medical translators come in. We help to say I like to say that we help bridge the communication gap. And so regardless of their native language, participants can actually understand the study information.
And you see, this is part of my job that I love and Berlin Nanette nonis was spot on in that episode when she emphasized the importance, the importance of speaking the patient's language. Communication is a cornerstone of patients. Centricity, and translation plays a crucial role in ensuring that clinical trial participants and every patient, all patients, are engaged in their own health care. So by providing participants with materials in their native language, we can help put them at ease and build trust.
And this is something that it is essential in health care and in clinical research. And we cannot forget that language barriers is are still a major obstacle in clinical trial participation. Right and particularly for those who are from non-English speaking countries or communities. And this is a potential problem because it leads to the exclusion of certain populations from clinical trials and we need to put aside the presumption that everyone speaks English.
And so that is why it's so important to provide translation translations of study materials to promote this inclusivity, inclusivity and diversity in clinical research. How did you initially get into working as a translator for clinical trials, and what languages do you work in? Well, um, I, I have always been passionate about communication in all its forms, but I was initially drawn to medical communication, specifically due to my own personal path as someone living with a chronic disease. And so since I completed my studies in translation, I've gradually built up my, my experience in the pharmaceutical field.
I work as a freelance translator since 2007, but I also work as, for example, in the system translator for the life sciences, freelance translator. And I also worked in-house at institutions, for example, such the nursing school of greenburgh. Um, I turned time freelancer in 2019 and added medical writing to my service portfolio. So it has been like, like I said, a gradual progress towards the, the working with medical translation.
And for the past 16 years, I've had the opportunity to work with a variety of clients in the clinical research industry and that includes scrolls, biopharmaceutical companies as well as translation and math commerce agencies. Um, I work primarily with English and Portuguese, but I also provide other languages working as a team, with trust, with colleagues, and I offer a full package service. That means that all my projects, which include translation, editing and proofreading steps, which is really important for quality assurance purposes. So talk me through what a typical day looks like for you as a freelance medical translator.
Sure well, no. There are no days that are the same as the previous one. But a typical day for me usually involves a mix of translation and writing work, project management tasks and also communication with clients. Well, I usually start my day, for example, by checking my email and responding to any urgent requests or questions for clients.
Then I review my schedule and my list of priorities for that day. I usually do that by the end of the day, by the end of the previous day, or I have a weekly schedule. So every day I go over that schedule. And if I have any projects that are, for example, nearing the deadline, I will focus on those for first.
This, like I said, may involve my project at the moment, may involve, for example, clinical trial protocols, informed consent forms, instructions for use, education materials. It's the variety of materials is one of the perks of working as a freelance medical translator. But I also spent some time coordinating with other translators and ensuring that we all have the information we need to complete our tasks. Also, reviewing your work for quality control and bless throughout the day.
I may also have virtual meetings with clients or project managers to discuss things like a project progress, timelines or any issue that may, may arise. And as a freelancer, I also need to allocate some time for those administrative tasks, such as invoicing, recordkeeping, updating website or social media accounts. I am really happy that I have the flexibility to structure my day in and work that in a way that works best for me and my clients. And like I mentioned, this means that some days may be busier than others and I may need to adjust my schedule to accommodate urgent requests or last minute changes.
To be honest, the my main challenge in my typical in a typical day, for example, my main challenge challenge and I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this in the Indian clinical research industry or in the translation industry is that my main challenge is often the turnaround time of projects, which is often tight. Of course it can depend, it can vary, depend on the specific documents to be translated, the documents to be translated, the complexity and the volume. But usually the turnaround time is one of the, the most challenging aspects of my work because you see, translation isn't just a matter of sitting down and translating word for word.
I, like I mentioned before, multiple steps involved, including translating, reviewing, implementing quality assurance measures. So it is important that. It is important to prioritize tasks and allocate your resources appropriately to ensure that you meet the deadline, but without compromising the quality you deliver. So my day can be summarized as a balance between working efficiently and ensuring that all the steps are taken to produce a high quality translation.
Because when dealing with high volumes of content and there is a lot of high volume of content being that needs to be translated in the clinical in clinical research, it may not be possible to complete the work in a short period of time. So I need to communicate this clearly to my client and make sure that we with together we set realistic expectations regarding the turnaround because of. But ultimately my client and I want the same thing. We we want the high quality service that complies with the industry best practices and regulations, but we need it as soon as possible.
So it's. It's sometimes it's challenging to keep that balance. As a content writer, I can definitely relate to the efficiency and quick turnaround and the challenges of that, although it could also be, you know, kind of exciting to have that kind of deadline. So if we move on to the types of trials you've worked on, which do you prefer?
Well, and I've worked on a variety of trials across different therapeutic areas, and that includes, for example, oncology, cardiology, neurology, also infectious disease. I don't necessarily have a preference for any particular type of trial or therapeutic area area. As each project presents its own challenges. And I.
What I. Another thing that I value opportunities for learning. But with that being said, I do I do have a particular interest in working on trials that have the potential to make a significant impact on patient outcomes, such as for such as trials for new cancer treatments or therapies for rare diseases, for example. I find it really rewarding to be able to, to contribute to this through my work as a medical translator.
And another area that I found particular I find particularly interesting is working on trials that involve the children or adolescents because this that is often requires some materials that need to be adapted and written in a way that it is easier for younger patients to understand. So between Among all the material, all the clinical trials I work with, I particularly enjoy these type this types of materials. That's really interesting. You talk about that because we've had a couple of interviews with people about children and adolescents and clinical trials.
And it's really important that the material is, you know, kind of taking into account their situation and their point of view. So, yeah, I can really imagine that could be really interesting for you. Now, earlier, you talked about your challenges as a translator in terms of turnaround time, but let's talk about the challenges as well facing the industry on a bigger scale. What are they, in your opinion?
Well um, I believe in terms of when you mention industry, I think that, um, when you mention the industry, I can think of a couple of technology challenges that affect not only the, the clinical research industry, but also the translation industry. And I think they are related because I think that one of the challenge is that clinical the clinical research industry is facing is that related to the globalization and the need for clear communication across different languages and cultures. So and there is I see a greater need for translation and localization of study materials. And these, like I mentioned, is not just translating, but it, it's the need to take into account the cultural, um, the cultural differences.
So there's a need for an effective translation and localization, but also cultural sensitivity and awareness on a, on all everyone that is involved in clinical research because you need to adapt content to be culturally appropriate and relevant to the target audience. And this cannot be achieved just by simple simply translating in the, in the narrow sense of, of translation. So you need a deep understanding of all the cultural nuances and the content context, not only of the target languages, but also of your source languages. So it's one of the challenges is to make sure that everything is that everyone, regardless of their background, regardless of their net native language is proper, is properly engaged in the clinical research.
Um, and this goes this. Goes along with one. What I see as one of the biggest challenges for the translation industry is that there is an increasing demand for speed and efficiency without compromising on quality. And with the rise of technology, there is often an expectation that translations can be done quickly and cheaply.
But this will result in lower quality translations that do not. Convey the intended meaning or not do not take into account the cultural differences. So this is the, in my opinion, one of the biggest challenges that relates to both industry. The need the increasing need to reach more and more people and you know, but at the same time demanding a level of speed and efficiency that if not balanced properly, can.
Eventually a compromise the goal we are trying to achieve. What do you most enjoy about being a medical translator? There are many things that I enjoy, but I think that what I enjoy the most is the opportunity to work on innovative, innovative medical research initiatives and treatments and the opportunity to collaborate with different professionals from different industries and, and experts. I also get a sense of a full fulfillment and and purpose purpose, knowing that my work is helping to improve patient outcomes and their quality of life by.
I see myself as someone who is facilitating the communication and the understanding between different cultural cultures and languages. So what I enjoy the most is feeling that I'm helping to make important medical information accessible to a wider and global audience. Now let's look to the future. You'll have seen all of the buzz around chat, JPT.
How it will impact jobs and the medical industry won't be exempt from that. Everybody will need to adapt. What are your thoughts on how I will affect translation? MHM it's the, the topic of the moment of dialogue.
Right so I believe that artificial intelligence, AI and machine translation will continue, will play an increasingly important role in the translation in the industry in the years to come. So and you see that these AI powered translation tools and software have already been being used for many years now to help automate many of the more repetitive and/or time consuming tasks. For example, translation, memory management, terminology management. And also it can be used for quality assurance checks.
But how? But while I can be a powerful tool for increasing like we mentioned before, increasing efficiency, it cannot replace human translators. So because there are still many aspects of translation that requires human judgment and human expertise, such as the ability to. Do you understand those cultural nuances, those cultural contexts for and to convey the tone and a style of the source text and to adapt the content where necessary to the target audience.
So yes, chat GDP is empty and other language models will have an impact. And are already having an impact on the translation industry. But they are still far from perfect that we all know that. And there are many limitations too to what they can do.
For example, regarding translation, these language models may struggle with certain language barriers, for example, which are not that common because the content there is available is not that so significant. And they can also struggle with more complex contents, more technical content. And we cannot forget the ethical considerations that we need to take into account when using AI tools for translation, for writing, for everything. And particular issues around, for example, the data privacy and even accuracy.
So I believe that the future of translation will involve a combination of artificial intelligence and human expertise. But they will be working to this work be. So we'll be working together to produce the best possible translations for that for clients and Earth and you and users. In fact, I like to think that the rise of artificial intelligence and machine translation may actually increase the demand for human translators because there will be a need for high quality and culturally sensitive translation.
So there will be a greater need for specialized freelance editors and specialized proofreader who can work alongside these tools to make sure that the translations that are produced are accurate, culturally sensitive and appropriate for the target audience. And what I think is that this it will require a shift in the industry towards more specialized and niche translation services with a greater focus on things like quality and customization, for example, rather than just the current focus on speed and efficiency. So that's my take on the evolution of artificial intelligence. It's great to hear that you're so optimistic.
I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens. Thank you so much, Nancy. Fire for joining me today. Thank you for having me.
Thank you. It was a pleasure. OK I'm just going to.
Speaking Patients’ Language