Medical proofreading

Medical proofreading

What it is, why it is extremely important, and who should do it.

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Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash 

UW Madison Writing Center describes Proofreading as “examining your text carefully to find and correct typographical errors and mistakes in grammar, style, and spelling.” Effective proofreading is vital to the production of high-quality scholarly and professional documents. But when it comes to Medical Proofreading, it’s not only about it seeming professional and seamless.  

Medical proofreading can save lives, lawsuits, and should be done by an experienced expert. By a fully trained professional who can correct spelling, grammar, and sentence construction, yes, but who is also fully cognizant of medical terminology.  

Medical proofreading is useful not just when translating into another language but also when writing in your native language. Even fluent speakers will often have issues with medical terminology; it is complicated and must be consistent. 


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 25-million Americans speak English “less than very well.” It is also estimated that roughly 70% of the information physicians base their diagnoses on is drawn from the patients’ history and physical exam, so patients who can communicate more successfully with healthcare providers, whose medical history, prescriptions, diagnoses, and so on, are better translated, will receive more successful treatments.  

Making use of the wrong word or cultural context can quite literally lead to someone’s death. Take the emblematic Willie Ramirez case in 1980. An 18-year-old boy became quadriplegic as a result of a misdiagnosed hemorrhage that could have been avoided had the neurosurgeon been called in earlier. But a neuro consult was off the table since the medical history had the Spanish word “intoxicado,” which is not equivalent to the English word “intoxicated.” In Spanish, it could refer to the adverse effects of anything ingested. In the hospital, it was interpreted as an intentional drug overdose.  

The hospital was required to provide a professional interpreter and failed to do so. It, therefore, became liable for a settlement of about $71 million. 

There are plenty more where Willie came from. A study conducted to investigate the impact of an Interpreter Service on the Emergency Department (ED) showed patients who did not speak English had the shortest ED stay and the fewest tests, IVs, and medications. Among discharged patients, return ED visits were lowest for interpreted patients. Due to these and many other data-driven conclusions, it can be read that the use of trained interpreters correlates with better results and care without any simultaneous increase in cost of visit. 


We’ve all joked about medical handwriting. It’s terrible! We instantly forget what was prescribed until another doctor comes to the rescue. Digital records saved us from that one, but complex medical terminology and abbreviations still make documents, even digital ones, unintelligible to the untrained eye and prone to translation mistakes if interpreted by someone who is not a language professional oriented to the medical industry.  

The most likely errors to occur are: 

  • Omitting crucial words in dictation. 
  • Picking incorrect medical terms. 
  • Misspelling. 
  • Grammatical errors in subject-verb agreement and tenses. 
  • Punctuation errors. 
  • Sound-alike words (homonyms). 
  • Mistakes in multi-word terms and eponyms. 
  • Wrong interpretation, translation, or non-translation of abbreviations and acronyms (between 1,500 and 30,000 medical errors were attributable to confusing abbreviations). 

Amongst many, many others.  


To start with, someone who is not part of your team, so that they have no predetermined idea about what you are trying to communicate, and therefore have a more “objective” or unpolluted view of the document.  

It follows that even though familiarity with other languages can be enough most times if there are lives at stake, a translation should be spotless. So very good is not enough; a professional is the bare minimum. In a multicultural country like the United States, a healthcare service provider could be treating more than 10 patients from different countries in single a day. What’s more, Federal law requires that any organization which receives federal financial assistance, including Medicare, Medicaid, must provide equal care to every patient. This includes serving customers who don’t speak English, have low proficiency, or are hearing impaired.  

At LST, we don’t only provide your organization with a wide variety of certified language pairs, we are also able to gather new teams to work on the languages you need and have a proven track record with State and Federal Governments, Health Care, Medical Centers, Hospitals, and Psychology and Psychiatric Institutions. 

If you need medical proofreading, we are your definite go-to. 

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