What is the Danger of an Incorrect Translation of Medical Records?

What is the Danger of an Incorrect Translation of Medical Records?

Caring for patients can come in many forms. And in many languages. For doctors to provide the best care possible to their patients, it is vital they have access to adequately translated medical records. A patient’s medical records contain potentially lifesaving information about their medical histories. Let’s dig deeper into why the proper translation of medical records matters so much.

What Information Does a Medical Record Contain?

Not all medical records will contain the following information. In fact, some people have none to very few medical records at all. But generally, the information below may be found while translating medical records.

  1. Personal identification information: Such as their social security number or their government-issued identification number.
  2. Medical history: Their history may include past diagnoses, medical care records, allergies, and treatments they have received amongst other information.
  3. Family medical history: A patient’s family medical history can help draw attention to genetic health concerns.
  4. Medication history: Doctors need to know about any prescription, herbal, over-the-counter, and even home remedies that a patient may be taking or have taken in the past. 
  5. Treatment history: Knowing if a patient has received a treatment, and whether it was successful or not, is valuable information for a medical provider.
  6. Medical directives: While not all patients will have a medical directive on record, it is important to understand their directives clearly if they do. Generally, this document is kept on file and details the medical wishes of a patient if they are unable to speak for themselves.

Why are Medical Records Important?

All of the information about a patient’s medical history that their record may contain are key pieces of their treatment puzzles. If any of the information in a medical record is mistranslated, patients are no longer receiving the care they deserve.

These records allow physicians and medical staff to better understand a patient’s medical history and current diagnosis. Creating a top-notch treatment plan can also be aided by the complete translation of medical records. 

If a patient is not able to communicate clearly with their doctor, which can happen regardless of a language barrier, the results of treatment can be disastrous. An unknown allergy to a medication can cause fatality. And not knowing what treatments a patient’s body doesn’t respond to can be dangerous and waste precious time.

What Mistranslation Can Cause

One example of the dangers of mistranslating a medical record is an unfortunate story about an English woman living in Spain. Teresa Tarry was supposed to have surgery for a benign lump in 2007. Instead, she left the surgery with 55% incapacity and believed she had a cancerous tumor. Weeks later, she discovered that the lump was not cancerous. The doctors at A Coruna’s Abente y Lago hospital misinterpreted her medical records. A translation mistake led the doctors to believe Tarry had a family history of breast cancer. Even though there was no such history. Without a family history of breast cancer, there was no need for such aggressive preventative treatment. A slight misunderstanding damaged the quality of her health and life forever.

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