Medical device companies wanting to globalize their products should consider the effect that translation can have on a product’s success. First, it is required. Most major health care markets have strictly defined regulatory requirements when it comes to language translation of safety-related information and other operating instructions. However, many companies are coming to understand that not only is translation required, but that it also makes good business sense.
International markets are essential to medical device manufacturers’ survival and are continuing to grow in importance. Translation is an important step in successfully bringing a medical product to the international market. An English-speaking doctor would not want to use a device or prescribe medication if the accompanying literature were only available in German. Similarly, a product that is only available in English will not reach its potential sales in foreign markets. It is foolish to assume that foreign customers understand English.
As more companies become aware of the importance of medical translation, they are beginning to ask how to go about getting a translation. When bringing a new device to market, device manufacturers should not wait until the final stages of development to begin addressing the translation process. It is important to get it right the first time because a poorly translated product could damage the company’s reputation or cause a public relations fiasco. More importantly, it could create product liability issues if the product is used incorrectly because of an inaccurate or unclear translation.
Planning for translation is the best way to save money. Medical device manufacturers should be aware that professional translators can usually translate 2000 to 3000 words per day. If you fail to plan and need a translation done urgently, you will likely pay a 30% (or more) surcharge. In addition, rush translations are usually carried out by several different translators who each take on a portion of the entire document. This is a less-than-ideal situation, since each translator has his or her own preferred vocabulary, and it may be obvious that the document lacks consistency in vocabulary and register.
Planning well for medical device translations will also help to avoid costly downfalls such as product delays or a reduction of the patent protection window, which can endanger long-term profits. Fixing a flawed translation can cost nearly as much as translating it correctly the first time, not to mention the potential for lost revenues while the translation is being reworked.
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