The pitfalls of inconsistent patient-reported outcomes translations

The pitfalls of inconsistent patient-reported outcomes translations

For years, translations of patient reported outcomes (PROs) have had inconsistencies. The way the translations are managed and the way they are published vary from practice to practicThis can cause tremendous difficulty in the pharmaceutical and medical field. Without proper information, how will patients understand what they need to live a healthy life?

Here are some of the pitfalls faced by the industry.

Inconsistent terminology

There are various ways to describe the same work. For example, if you plan to test a new translation on a small group of people to ensure accuracy and comprehension it can have two different names – “pilot testing” or “cognitive debriefing.”

It’s inconsistent verbiage like those two terms that confuses people in the pharmaceutical and medical industry.Although both cognitive debriefing and pilot testing can use a small group of people, pilot testing can also refer to testing on a larger group of people. This can have a profound impact on the meaning of a text depending on the context. In translations of PROs, this can change the meaning from language to language.

Inconsistent methodology

The methodology used by language service providers (LSPs) can also have a profound impact on the accuracy of a PRO translation.

Some LSPs require a back translation, or a method of refining a translation. Others do not. Of the LSPs that do require a back translation, some only require one, while others require two. It’s confusing to read and even more confusing to work with in the translation industry.

To take a consistent approach, some would suggest implementing the option that is better suited for the project. The problem is that there are no published studies that show whether one back translation or several is a better approach. This adds even more temptation for inconsistency among work, which can have a negative impact on PRO translations.

Inconsistent scopes for translation work

PROs have various segments. Symptom checklists, reports from patients, and other types of forms must get translated with every project. That’s a given.

What remains unclear is how these items are translated. Should the translations vary depending on the language? Or should a definitive translation method be used across the board? Different language companies use different approaches. With an inconsistent scope for translation work, these alternative approaches might get overlooked or pushed to the side, creating confusion.

Inconsistent guidelines

The way companies outline translation projects can have inconsistencies too. For some texts, descriptive language is crucial. For others, prescriptive language is ideal.

An example of this is describing how the translation project will take place. Will there be a specific process that should be followed? Or will the company outline criteria or requirements that should be met?

Without clear guidelines, it’s difficult for translators to understand how the company wants the PRO translated, which can lead to inconsistencies from various providers.

Inconsistent LSP guidance

The LSP plays a major role in the way the PRO is translated. Knowing how an LSP communicates on projects, translations, and outlines is vital to understanding how to define a scope of work.

Inconsistent guidance can lead to many miscommunications and misunderstandings. By having a consistent approach with how you inform, manage, and follow up with an LSP, you will have far greater accuracy with your PROs.

What can be done?

The first step toward avoiding these common pitfalls is to reassess how you write your files for translation and your communication with your LSP.

  • What methodologies do you want to use in your translations of PROs?

  • What guidelines must be followed? What can be less stringent?

  • How will you and your LSP communicate throughout the project to ensure these pitfalls are not a problem?

By staying consistent with your approach, you’ll have a far better experience with your translator and with the outcome of your projects.


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