World Patient Safety Day: The language connection to safer healthcare

September 17th has been designated by the World Health Organization as World Patient Safety Day, a date meant to serve as a global call to action to reduce patient harm. This year’s theme, “Engaging Patients for Patient Safety,” is an opportunity to consider the vital role of language in engaging and empowering patients, along with their families and caregivers. Given that less than 20% of the world’s population speaks English, acknowledging and respecting cultural and linguistic diversity is essential in elevating the voice of patients worldwide.

As experts in language and content and working with some of the biggest names in the Life Sciences and Pharma industry, Acolad has witnessed countless instances where effective communication played a pivotal role in ensuring patient safety and well-being. Let’s take a moment to detail how language and localization are integral to fostering health safety globally.

Understanding leads to informed decisions
In an emotionally-charged, often overwhelming and jargon-filled healthcare setting, clear communication can be a challenge – but essential to avoid misunderstandings regarding treatment, instructions and information. And when that communication needs to be done across languages, this becomes even more crucial. Patients must comprehend their diagnoses, treatment and rehabilitation plans, to make informed decisions. Poor translations, or the absence of information in their preferred language can have dire consequences, hindering their ability to provide informed consent. Communicating in their preferred language can reduce anxiety, enhance patient experiences, and improve recovery.

The same goes for drug labelling and user manuals, safety labels and instructions for medical devices – which should also be adapted to be easily understood, accurate and compliant with local regulations.

Setting language as the core of Patient-Centered Care
Patient empowerment requires a common linguistic understanding, especially in multilingual societies. And this goes beyond language; it involves recognizing cultural nuances and beliefs, respecting diverse norms that influence patient preferences, decisions, and care expectations. This cultural awareness also strengthens the relationships between patients and healthcare professionals, fostering trust. 

Furthermore, patient safety relies on accurate and accessible health records. Telehealth services and remote patient monitoring must be accessible in multiple languages to enable effective remote care. Localization experts play a crucial role in providing materials and interpreters to serve all patients.

Lastly, in the context of emergency preparedness, clear communication is essential: translated emergency alerts, evacuation instructions, and safety protocols bridge language gaps, ensuring that everyone is adequately prepared. 

In conclusion, patient safety is paramount, and language plays a pivotal role in prioritizing it. Effective translation and localization can enhance health literacy, adapt messaging to diverse cultures, and ensure effective patient engagement. The localization industry plays a crucial role in breaking down language barriers and improving care quality and patient outcomes. With experienced life sciences localization partners, healthcare organizations can overcome obstacles to provide care to patients regardless of their native language or cultural background.

Connect with our life sciences team to find out more about how localization expertise can help put patients first.


Marketing Acolad
For decades, Acolad has been committed to helping customers across key industries engage with their markets, increase revenue, and drive process efficiencies through cutting-edge content solutions and technology.


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