A matter of life and death: medical transcription and the public sector

by Luigi Koechlin
posted on Friday 17th March 2017

At Global Voices, our specialist public sector transcription services provide multilingual translations and interpretations to public sector authorities. This includes the vital service offered by medical transcriptionists in hospitals and the public sector.

Our medical transcriptionists are often in high demand: The NHS accept that they have a “statutory and moral responsibility to patients” to provide medical interpreters and translators to all the communities they serve. And the good work of medical transcriptionists can make the difference between life and death.

What is medical transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting of spoken words into writing. There are many ways to transcribe something, which usually involve combining transcription with interpretation or translation methods.

Foreign language transcription is the process of converting sound files in the source language into a written document in that same source language.

Direct translation involves transcribing an audio file in the source language, and then translating that source language transcription into a written document in the target language.

Medical transcription specifically deals in the transcription of medical reports and patient histories from any number of audio recordings or files. Medical transcription can differ slightly in that it does not simply deal with transcribing each recorded word, but extracts the most valuable information pertaining to a patient’s care.

At Global Voices, our highly specialised public sector transcriptionists are also able to perform a transcription and/or translation of handwritten notes—no mean feat considering the reputation doctors and medical professionals have for poor handwriting.

What do medical transcriptionists do?

A medical transcriptionist is an expert transcriber with specialist knowledge of the medical industry. That means they are familiar with medical terminology, and those who perform transcriptions in translation are also familiar with these terms in different languages.

Medical and hospital transcriptionists can work both within hospitals, or perform medical transcriptions of documents that are outsourced. Their familiarity with the medical industry also helps them understand the standard formats used in hospital documentation and can ensure a medical transcription is as accurate as possible.

The different types of transcription services that medical transcriptionists can handle include: Physical examination reports; Progress reports; Pathology reports; Radiology reports; Autopsy reports; Labour and delivery reports and Consultation reports.

In many cases, the accurate transcription of medical reports such as these can be the difference between life and death. A proper transcription of a patient’s medical history, prior treatment and ongoing health conditions is of the utmost importance to enable proper medical treatment and care, both current and future.

Why are medical transcriptionists necessary?

Medical transcriptionists are necessary for much the same reasons as experienced medical interpreters. A study by the American College of Emergency Physicians in 2012 analysed interpreter errors that had clinical consequences, and found that the error rate was ten times higher for ad hoc interpreters, compared to professional medical interpreters with specialist training and experience.

People unfamiliar with medical terminology can easily confuse terms such as ‘known malignant’ and ‘nonmalignant’ and ‘urological’ instead of ‘neurological’. One particularly erroneous mistranslation is between the terms ‘hypo’ and ‘hyper’. ‘Hypo’ refers to a lack of something, while ‘hyper’ means an excess—hyperglycaemia refers to a condition where the patient has higher than normal sugar levels. Confusing the two terms can have fatal consequences if a condition is mistreated. Errors in medical transcription can similarly be a matter of life and death.

But it’s not just those lacking in specialist medical knowledge that can hinder amateur transcribers, but those whose transcription skills aren’t particularly up to scratch too. Many medical transcriptionists abroad, a Guardian article warns, “are believed to be medical students and qualified doctors, but not qualified medical secretaries expert at transcribing medical notes.”

The comprehensive package offered by expert medical transcriptionists who are familiar with both patients and medical professionals allows them to manage the problems associated with obscure and difficult to decipher notes and terminologies. Choosing a specialist medical transcription service can and does save lives.

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10 things only interpreters can understand (part 2)

by Luigi Koechlin - 17th May 2017

10 things only interpreters can understand (part 2)


    Last week we told you of the top 5 situations only interpreters can understand. Here is the next top 5, how many do you agree with?      
  1. Forgetting the right word at the wrong time

It is important that an interpreter knows exactly the right words to use during an interpretation. But sometimes, depending on your working environment or personal reasons like illness or strain, your brain can react slower meaning that sometimes you forget the words you need.  
  1. Using the right accent

While dealing with two completely different languages, it could become a real challenge to maintain the right accent for the different languages. Each language has their natural sound but when interpreting, it is not uncommon for them to get mixed up.  
  1. Telling jokes in a foreign language

When it comes to telling jokes, well… the common problem is that the joke only works in the original language. Many jokes play on cultural backgrounds and environments so don’t work when translated and result in some blank looking faces.  
  1. Translating idioms into other languages

Idioms are used in everyday language but cannot be translated easily into another language. For example “Tourner autour du pot” is literally translated to “To turn around the vase” but its true meaning in English is to “beat about the bush”. When translating idioms, it’s important to translate the meaning, as it is not always appropriate to translate the actual wording.  
  1. Hearing people saying that being an interpreter is easy

It is always unpleasant to hear that what you do is "easy" but especially for interpreters. Many people seem to think that if you are fluent in any language that you can become a translator or an interpreter just by magic. But translation is not just about language, it is also about understanding the relevant society and cultural background.   Any interpreter would recognise at least one of these challenges and confirm that being an interpreter is a tough job and requires a lot of time and dedication, but is a worthwhile and exciting career.

Justice is served: legal transcription

by - 28th April 2017

At Global Voices, our specialist legal transcription services provide multilingual translations and interpretations to legal authorities including police and court services, legal practices, global law firms and international government authorities.

With 7.7% of the British population using a language other than English at home, employing professional transcriptionists in the legal and law enforcement sectors is essential for ensuring justice for all.

What is legal transcription?

Transcription is the process of converting of spoken words into writing, sometimes called ‘speech to text’ services.

If you take a look back at our blog post on medical transcription, we explain the different types of transcription offered by our team of specialist transcribers at Global Voices: foreign language transcription and direct translation, which involves converting an audio file into a language document in the source language (foreign language transcription) or converting an audio file into a document in the target language (direct translation).

Legal transcription refers specifically to the transcription of legal documents, including suspect interrogation and witness statements, police reports and court proceedings, as well as dictated recordings made by attorneys, paralegals, and other legal professionals from any number of audio recordings or files. The material is often highly confidential in nature and demands a quick turnaround.

What roles to legal transcriptionists do?

Legal transcriptionists support law enforcement authorities in ensuring legal proceedings are carried out accurately, no matter which language they are being conducted in. As there are many diverse branches of law, legal transcriptionists have highly specialised knowledge in many areas of law, such as corporate, criminal, employment and family law, to name but a few.

Legal transcriptionists can work within police stations, courts or law firms, or perform legal transcriptions of documents that have been outsourced to professional agencies. Legal transcriptionists tend to listen to and transcribe audio recordings made during the process of witness or suspect interviews, but are also sometimes required to transcribe notes dictated by legal and paralegal professionals.

Legal transcriptionists can also perform a transcription of lease documents, contracts, wills and executry documentation with the utmost accuracy. At Global Voices, our expert legal transcriptionists and copy typists can also transcribe handwritten notes, reports and correspondence to save legal professionals valuable time.

Legal transcriptions are one of the most difficult branches of the translating and interpreting professions, not only because the translations produced must be flawless, but also because each country has its own unique legal system and legal terms. You can trust our specially trained legal transcriptionists to understand and account for these legal variants and provide a document that accurately serves its purpose.

Why are legal transcriptionists necessary?

Legal transcriptionists are necessary because of the heightened need for accuracy and precision in all legal dealings. That applies to legal interpretation and translation services too, particularly with regards to statements and testimonies that can be used to prove a person’s guilt or innocence.

The need for defendants to be able to understand legal proceedings, using an interpreter, translator or transcriptionist if necessary, was pointed out in no uncertain terms during R v Iqbal Begum Court of Appeal ruling that stated:

“It is beyond the understanding of this court that it did not occur to someone that the reason for her [the defendant's] silence... was simply because she was not being spoken to in a language which she understood.”

In the courtroom, any testimony or sworn statement that is not interpreted or understood accurately is considered inadmissible, and errors in cases of legal misinterpretation benefit the party of the defense.

Back in 2016, Microsoft announced that it’s new speech recognition code was ‘just as good’ as a professional transcriber. Cited as a “major breakthrough in speech recognition” it was the first time software was able to achieve human parity for conversational speech, and techies wondered if transcriptionists’ days were numbered.

However, the best transcription technologies still report a 6.3% word error rate, which is too great a margin when it comes to ensuring justice is properly served. Software tools and even amateur transcribers unfamiliar with legal terminology can easily confuse and misinterpret terms.

Some specialist legal terms, such as mens rea, which is latin for ‘of a guilty mind’, and colloqualisms like ‘wobbler’, which means a crime that cannot easily be defined, can be particularly difficult for an untrained ear to understand, let alone translate. Given the large volume of legal terms and police jargon, only trained and experienced human transcriptionists should be sought.

The service offered by expert legal transcriptionists who are familiar with both legal systems and legal professionals allows them to manage the problems associated with obscure and difficult to decipher notes and terminologies. Choosing an highly trained legal transcription will see to it that justice is served.

How do I secure my intellectual property?

by - 21st April 2017

Intellectual property is one of the most valuable assets a business can have, but failing to secure your intellectual property means someone else can. This immediately puts your business and any product or service you offer at risk.

Intellectual property applies to inventions, certain discoveries, written or recorded work, slogans, logos and designs, and other original creations and ideas. Protecting and securing your intellectual property is crucial to ensuring the longevity and success of any business venture.

How do I protect my intellectual property?

Patents, copyrights and trademarks are all ways of protecting your intellectual property. They are legal designations granted to intellectual property holders, designed to protect that property from being copied, sold or used in any way without the owner’s authorisation.

As your product or service becomes successful, your intellectual property develops an intrinsic value. You’ll need to prevent competitors from duplicating your work, and ensure your business is solely entitled to any profits your goods or services generate. Business investors will often assess whether you have taken the appropriate steps to protect your intellectual property to secure your business.

What is the difference between patents, copyrights and trademarks?

It’s not uncommon to confuse patents, copyrights and trademarks, considering there are similarities among these kinds of intellectual property protection. They are each different however, and are used to serve different purposes.

What is a patent?

A patent is the grant of property rights to the inventor of a product or process. It gives you the right to take legal action against anyone who makes, uses, sells or imports your invention without permission.

To file a UK patent, an application must be made with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You can also file a UK patent application through the European Patent Office (EPO) or the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

A patent is valid for a limited duration, the length of which differs depending on the type of patent that is granted. In the UK, a design patent tends to last for 20 years from the date on which the patent was issued, while utility patents last for 20 years from the date on which the application was filed.

While the time to obtain a patent in the UK usually takes around 2.5 years, this can range from 1 year to as much as 5 years. As soon as your patent application is filed, it obtains the status ‘patent pending’, which means no one else is able to obtain a patent covering your invention.

What is a copyright?

A copyright is geared toward protection of literary, artistic and dramatic works, such as books and videos. The primary goal of copyright law is to protect the time, effort and creativity of a work’s creator.

The Copyright Act therefore grants the owner exclusive rights to reproduce that work, prepare derivative works based on the original work, distribute copies of the work by sale, lease or other transfer, and perform or display the work publicly. The copyright owner is also able to authorise other people to do any of these things.

A copyrighted work can be identified by the symbol ©. It signals to anyone looking to duplicate your work that it is secured by official legal protection. But copyright protection only applies to the particular form or manner in which information or ideas have been produced. Copyright Law does not cover the actual ideas, concepts, facts, or techniques contained in the copyright work.

A copyright does not have to be registered because copyright protection arises as soon as your work is created, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The period your copyright work is protected for depends on a number of factors, including the type of work you have created. If you are a poet, for example, your work will be protected until 70 years after your death.

What is a trademark?

A trademark (sometimes referred to as a service mark) is used to protect the words, slogans, logos or other devices used to identify a company brand. A trademark identifies and distinguishes your brand as a source of goods from those of competitors, whereas a service mark refers to the source of a service, rather than goods.

Not all words and names are capable of being protected as trademarks. They must not be generic or flatly descriptive, but rather suggestive (eg. Instagram), and can benefit from being arbitrary (like Apple) or even fanciful (such as Bumble). You can only adopt a trademark if it is not “confusingly similar” to another trademark already registered within a similar trademark classification.

Registered trademarks can be identified by the abbreviation ™ while in the process of registration, or ® once the registration has been accepted. It signals to all potential competitors that your brand has official legal protection and cannot be replicated.

Unlike patents and copyrights, a trademark does not expire after a given number of years. Trademarks are issued depending on ‘use’, meaning a trademark can last forever so long as you continue to utilise that mark to identify or distinguish the source of your goods or service.

How do I secure my intellectual property internationally?

A patent, once issued, applies only to the country in which the application is made. However, it is possible to make an international intellectual property application to ensure your intellectual property is protected internationally. This involves conducting an international patent search to determine the patentability of your invention. Read more in our blog on why you need to do a patent search.

Each country has its own copyright law which means copyright practice can vary, but most countries will protect works created in other countries in the same way that they protect their own citizens’ creations. It is advised you consult with a legally-trained professional to determine if and how your intellectual property is protected abroad.

Trademarks must again be applied for in each country your business is to operate. You can apply to the Patent and Trademark Office in each country that is strategic to your business. Within the European Union, there is a Community Trademark, and a number of countries have signed-up to an international agreement called the ‘The Madrid Protocol’, enabling business to search and register trademarks internationally.

How can Global Voices help secure my intellectual property?

Making an international patent application, or registering a trademark overseas requires the specialist skills of legal translators. Legal translations are one of the most difficult branches of the translating and interpreting professions, not only because the translations produced must be flawless, but also because each country has its own unique legal system and legal terms—even minor errors in a legal translation can render patents, trademarks and copyrights invalid.

You can rest assured with Global Voices, as each of our legal translation services are fully certified for quality and accuracy. The standard is an ISO 9001:2008 or ISO 9001:2015 and EN 15038 certification, which means it possesses demonstrable ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements.

As international business and global commerce rates rise, the need for multilingual contracts, patents and other legal documents is rapidly growing. Don’t leave the security of your business’ intellectual property to chance when it comes to filing an international patent. Use the resources of specialised legal translation services to make sure your business doesn’t face legal disputes later down the line.

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