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We often get letter templates from our healthcare clients that are used in their member communications which have a lot of repetition in their healthcare projects that require translations.  These templates are often provided to us in a large set (such as hundreds of letters) and the differences among each letter may be the mentioned drug and its benefits (with medication adherence letters) as well as the method of delivery to the patient (retail vs. mail order).  No two letters are the same, yet there is a lot of repetition between the letters that needs to be consistently translated and also discounted in costs for the client.

repetition of textThis post is about the process for handling this scenario in healthcare translations. We make recommendations for clients to think about when authoring such communications and how they may want to find efficiencies on their end, which can result in additional cost savings yet ensure consistency in translations for the end user.

image of stormtroopers with one that is different from others to depict the metaphor of repetition in healthcare translations

If a client is using an authoring system, there are certainly ways to write the content one time (translate one time) and use that content to create multiple letters which may have variability.  That is the ideal world and the recommendation for clients to save costs in healthcare translations by using an authoring system.  However, many health plans or PBMs (Pharmacy benefit managers), have these templates in Word and author in each individual template.  There are multiple files yet with some variability.

Process Option 1 for Repetition in healthcare translations

Using Translation Memory and Termbase technology to assist in consistent and productive healthcare translations

When we receive these Word files, we process them as a group of letters in our Translation Memory software and do an analysis on the amount of repetition.  One of the options is then to prepare this file to send to the translator.  Working in the Translation Memory software, the translator can adjust the settings so that the first time a sentence is translated, that translation is automatically propagates down through the file to any segment containing similar text matching 75% or above.  When the translator comes to those segments where the translation has autopropagated down, there is a visual reference to the percentage matched from the translation and the segment has a color according to the level of match. The translator can then edit it or confirm it as matched (in context) and move on.  In this scenario, the translator still must review every single segment in the file – this incurs more time than the 2nd process option we present below.

One of the barriers of this option is the size of the file.  When you merge a lot of letters together in one project file, it can create a very large file size.  That may make working in the file slower.  While this may not be a problem in project management, it may be a barrier to the translator depending on their bandwidth and their computer resources.


Another barrier to this option is the overall cost.  We do discount for repetition for our clients but there is still a cost associated for each word of repetition and with a lot of words in a project, this can add up.  Why the cost if it’s all repetitive? Because it takes a technological solution to provide the translation to match the source English and to do it so quickly.  There is a cost to purchasing, managing, updating and training people to use this software so that is a cost that the client incurs when they want to have the benefits of not being charged for all words the same. To understand translation costs further, check this blog out.

Process Option 2 for Repetition in healthcare translations

Another solution to tackling a project like this with repetition in healthcare translations is to process all the templates or Word files together as one project and then do an export of Frequently Occurring Units (FOUs) which occur in the file 2 or more times.  This way, you are only translating those units one time and then you create a Translation Memory from that initial translation of the FOUs and apply it against the much larger file. For segments which match perfectly at 100%, you can then lock them so that the translator does not have to review them.  Risk:  The only time we do this without further translator review is when the FOUs are uniform and have enough context in them to be translated as stand alone sentences.  If the context changes when applying it to the larger file, there is a risk that the translation of the repetitive segments will need further editing depending on that context.  In that scenario, you need the translator to review again.  However, if no further review is needed, you can reduce the time spent on the file and the discount amount on the translation is further reduced from the discount percentage in process option 1.  This saves the client even more costs.  Please note however that time frame is generally increased in days (determined by overall word count) so this option is not for rush projects.

If you’d like to read more on the preparation process of translation and get additional ideas on how to save costs, we’ve written on it!

Overall, you should look toward strategies from your Language Service Provider that not only save you time and money but which guarantee you consistency of messaging and quality control to ensure that your healthcare translations and repetition in healthcare translations are handled to move the patient to better health outcomes and ensure that the messaging is correct and accurate. Dealing with a project that involves a lot of repetition?  Give us a call