Medical device innovation and marketing is almost always an international phenomenon. A medical device that improves the detection of pressure sores, for example, may indeed have been developed in say Japan, but its usefulness, once tests have proved that it is safe and effective is global. Medical device translation is an extremely important part of any decision to sell medical devices on an international scale. The American caregiver, the Swedish nurse and Ghanaian doctor are all interested in using a new painkiller or antibiotic but would be reluctant to do so if the information and instructions accompanying these vital medical tools are in German.
Medical device translation requirements are generally of a much higher standard than that of general translation tasks where precise matching of medical instructions and terminology is vital. Take a Korean surgeon, for example, who is told of a brilliant new technique for dealing with prostate cancer. Every society where there is an aging population, such as in Korea, will have similar demands for anti-cancer research, effective new drugs and innovative medical devices. The device manufacturer will be aware, or should be aware, of the importance of medical device translation and should have prepared meticulous instructions in Korean (and other languages of course) and probably a video of how to use the device. Pictures can often say a thousand words, but doctors and others in the medical profession don’t have time to listen to 1,000 words. They may need to use that device to save a life today.
A survey of medical device companies by Lionbridge and CG-EY revealed that a full 95% of companies expected to increase their translation needs within the next five years. More than 50% of companies surveyed revealed also that over half of their device sales were to an international market. Perhaps more tellingly, companies were saying that in many cases they had no option but translate material on the use and care of new medical devices.
Medical device companies, like many globalizing businesses, are now at the stage of asking how a medical device translation should take place rather than why it should. Businesses are increasingly taking translation seriously and trying to balance the obvious demand for translated documents and device information with the presumed estimation of success.