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25 Aug Optimising your Informed Consent Forms for translation

Historically, informed consent forms (ICFs) have been far too complex for the average adult patient to understand. Full of jargon and convoluted language, they are barely intelligible by the patient… and a medical translator’s worst nightmare. Thankfully, and in line with other areas of institutional documentation, things are changing.

Did you know that ICF translations differ if recipient is above or below 16 years old?
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One approach being adopted in the English-speaking world when penning an ICF is to consider the reading age of the target patient population, meaning the document should be written as if, say, for a 16-year old. The John Hopkins Medicine Institutional Review Board, for instance, recommends writing for an eighth grade reading age (13-14 years). This does not mean dumbing down and to do so would be patronising and unethical. Rather, for the most part, it means using what is referred to as “plain English”: simple sentences, no jargon and a straight-forward tone.

Whatever the language, care must be taken at the authoring stage to ensure that the meaning of the text is clear. This is doubly important if you need your ICF translated: any ambiguities in the original text can lead to problems during the translation process, while excessive complexity must be decoded and, depending on the brief, reproduced. Both are susceptible to misinterpretation and both can add hours to your bill.

So what can you do to make your ICF medical translations more cost-effective?

If you are still at the authoring stage, you can consider the following starter recommendations:

  • Write in short factual sentences, where possible obeying the subject-verb-object word order.
  • Use words familiar to a non-medical reader. Where technical terms cannot be accurately substituted by a lay equivalent, a definition should be provided.
  • Avoid colloquialisms, cultural references and jargon.
  • Be consistent in your use of drug or procedure names, personnel references and other defined terms.
  • Assume little to no prior knowledge on the part of the patient.

If your ICF has already been written and approved, do not lose heart. Work with us to create a Translator’s Guide, to be sent to the translator with the ICF. This document will include everything from a comprehensive style guide, preferred translations of key terms (customised glossary) to explanations of any ambiguous sections identified at this stage. This kind of preemptive troubleshooting will ensure that the translation process runs smoothly and on time.

Let’s be honest, your ICF translation is never going to make for bedtime reading. But it should serve to inform and, by informing, reassure the patient should they wish to independently consult the document at any point before, during or after the intervention in question. An unreadable (or inexpertly translated) ICF is a missed communication opportunity, and communication is central to patient well-being and satisfaction.

Let Okomeds’ specialised medical translation service help you make the most of this opportunity.

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