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How to best use AI technology for your medical translations

Topic : Type : Briefing

Content provided by ABHI member, Dialogue Language Services International.


Accurate medical translations can save our lives; inaccuracies can threaten them…

You want to provide your patients and users with a better, more equitable experience: improved access to information, the ability to weigh up the benefits and risks of suggested treatments and make an informed decision, informed consent, and much more… inaccurate translation, however, can have the reverse effect.

Several examples of erroneous machine translation have been noted recently by The University of Aberdeen. A series of package leaflets were machine- translated by New York pharmacies across six different languages. 

Once a day” in English was translated as “eleven a day” (because “once” has the meaning of “eleven” in Spanish). Similarly, boca (which means “mouth” in Spanish) was spelt as “poca” instead (meaning “little” in Spanish), which caused customers to incorrectly assume that the medicine should be taken in small quantities rather than simply orally[1].

Given the severity of the subject matter (and clear potential consequences!), enlisting the help of Artificial Intelligence in the medical translation sector was traditionally considered a risky endeavour. But AI-powered Machine translation tools are becoming increasingly efficient and more widely accepted in the medical sector.

But to get the most out of technology, we need to use it to the best of its ability, and understand its limitations. Here are some best practices and guidelines on how to leverage AI technology for your medical translations.

  • Find out if AI is suitable for your needs - quality varies depending on the languages, subject areas, and the engine being used.
  • Choose the right engine for your content - some specialise in specific language pairs, others in certain subject areas.
  • Give your tool a helping hand - you can develop and train tailor-made models with your own data to boost quality and consistency.
  • Enlist human help - if you’re publishing materials or working with critical documents, then have a human edit your machine-translated materials ahead of distribution.
  • Feed your processes with feedback - establishing a feedback process afterwards will provide you with the opportunity to refine and review your content.

Interested in exploring how to make AI translation work for your company through a Dialogue workshop? Express your interest by emailing Cathy at