Understanding the Technology Used in Medical Interpreting

Doctor and assistant meeting with patient

For decades, medical translation by interpreting agencies was a process that relied heavily on human interpretation and then manual transcription. As with most aspects of medicine, over the last 20 years, Information Technology (IT) greatly altered how medical translation is conducted. The following is a rundown of the various technologies we use today to ensure that our medical translations are as accurate as possible.

The Benefits of Technology

IT developments in audio and visual equipment have made medical translation more accurate and made interpretation easier. While humans are still very much needed, a collaborative effort between the translator and the machine helps ensure that both are as accurate as possible.

Technology has also made the transcription process easier, which has freed up translators to serve more clients. It also has made remote transcription possible as well as opened many different options for resources for medical interpretation. A translation agency can use technology to match the needs of a client with the skill set of a translator. Finally, medical transcription and interpretation have made official records more accurate. A healthcare interpreter no longer has to rely on word of mouth or untrained interpretation, as with technology, it is all there at their fingerprints.


Telephonic audio has made it possible to get transcription services to more physicians and their patients. Surveys have shown that the majority of physicians would not otherwise have access to an electronic or in-person interpretation system. Telephony has increased the access to trained medical interpreters in multiple locations, which has allowed doctors to use electronic audio when an in-person interpreter or transcriber is not available.

Translator using sign language

Access to Trained Interpreters

Many doctors have reported that absent a trained medical interpreter, they will rely on untrained staff, family members, or friends to interpret medical records. This, obviously, has increased the error rate significantly. Because untrained medical interpreters are not familiar with much of the medical lexicon, they often make mistakes in translation or interpretation, which can have devastating effects. At the very least, it can cause problems with insurance companies or government agencies.

For those who want it, telephony interpretation has opened the doors to trained professionals and alleviated the need to rely on untrained individuals to make accurate transcriptions.


Video technology has also revolutionized the interpretation world. Like telephony, it has made medical interpretation more accessible and affordable for doctors, the interpreter company, and deaf and hearing-impaired patients. Video Relay Service (VRS) is a system that links a computer with a videophone and allows deaf people to communicate remotely.

It can be used for normal and medical conversation, as well as medical interpretation. VRS lets two people see each other and sign to each other as opposed to typing out a message and relying on a chat service to aid in communication. It is instantaneous, depending on the internet connection of an organization.

In many ways, technology has reinvented the medical translation and interpretation industry. It has opened doors to doctors and patients, expanded client bases for interpretation companies and made medical recordkeeping more accurate and thorough. For more information on transcription and interpretation options, and on how translation technology can help you, check out Tembua.com.