E.g., 04/09/2020
E.g., 04/09/2020

As California Considers Requiring Prescription Drug Info be Offered in a Patient’s Language, ISI Expert Available to Discuss Five Common Translation Errors

ISI Language Solutions

Wednesday, 7 July, 2010

Making Language Meaningful Requires More Than a Literal Translation, Says ISI President George Rimalower; Factors Like Colors, Numbers and Cultural Sensitivities Can Alter Meaning and Put Communications at Risk


WHAT: California is considering provisions that would require pharmacies to provide meaningful assistance to consumers with limited-English proficiency. Healthcare providers nationwide will be paying attention, because often what starts as a California legislative requirement ends up as a federal mandate.


According to California Senate Bill 1390, approximately 46 percent of American adults cannot understand the label on their prescription drugs.


In June, the bill was amended in the Assembly to require that certain phrases on a prescription drug label be translated into non-English languages. The bill also would require a pharmacy to provide non-English patients with any other written information relevant to the prescription drug in the patient’s language. For the latest version of California Senate Bill 1390, go here.


This is good news for all parties, according to ISI president George Rimalower, who has been providing language and localization services to healthcare and other industries for three decades.


“There’s no room for error in healthcare communications,” said Rimalower. “Helping people better understand how to take their medication reduces life-threatening errors while decreasing overall provider costs by limiting the number of people who have to return to the doctor with complications. But making language meaningful requires more than just a literal translation of the content.”


ACTION: Rimalower is available immediately to address some of the most common issues that make translations inaccurate, putting healthcare providers at risk of dangerous miscommunication:


• Representation of numbers and dates – commas and decimal points have different meanings for different language groups.


• A misleading use of color as shorthand – whereas red might immediately signify danger or caution to North American English speakers, for others it means celebration, good luck and happiness.


• Literary and education levels – often the source material being translated is written at a level that’s too high for the target audience.


• Cultural and religious sensitivities – using anatomical terms that are offensive to the target audience might diminish the ability of the consumer to understand the translated material.


• Lousy writing to begin with – often, the source document contains typos or inaccurate punctuation that alter the meaning of a sentence.


WHY: According to California Senate Bill 1390:

• Medication errors are among the most common medical errors, harming at least 1.5 million people every year, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies.


• Up to one-half of all medications are taken incorrectly or mixed with other medications that cause dangerous reactions that can lead to injury and death.


• Providing adequate language services improves health outcomes and patient satisfaction, comports with existing federal and state requirements and achieves long-term cost savings. WHEN: George Rimalower is available immediately to discuss these issues in more detail.


HOW: To speak with Rimalower, contact:

Ken Greenberg

Edge Communications, Inc.

[email protected]

(818) 990-5001


WHO: George Rimalower founded Interpreting Services International, Inc. (ISI) in 1982. ISI enables successful communication through full-service language and localization solutions, from a global team of linguists deeply rooted in the cultural and technical nuances of virtually every language used in business. ISI was one of the first to address the special linguistic and cultural needs of both non- and limited-English-proficient communities of the United States. ISI is based in Los Angeles, with hundreds of translators in the United States and worldwide.

# # #