The Global Shift to Remote Medical Interpreting

welocalize May 5, 2020

The boundaries between the digital and physical world continue to blur. This has a direct impact on global organizations and industries, as conferences, investigator meetings, medical consultations, and many clinical studies get postponed or move to a virtual environment.

Traditionally, on-site interpreting has accounted for over 80% of all spoken-language assignments. Stay at home orders are leading rapid change, as organizations and interpreters shift to remote interpreting services to keep critical communication flowing. Over-the-Phone (OPI), Video-Remote-Interpreting (VRI), Remote Simultaneous Interpreting (RSI), and Remote Consecutive Interpreting (RCI) are now becoming the norm for spoken translation.


Spoken words are an important part of communicating in any language, but the way we communicate nonverbally is equally (and sometimes more) important – especially in healthcare and legal settings. Facial expressions, tone and pitch of the voice, gestures and body language are all critical to conveying important messages and content. Understanding these cues are a vital part of the interpreting process.

Lack of direct visual contact can be a challenge in most interpreting scenarios. The ability to see facial expressions and reactions is an important part of the communication process. #VRI #RSI #remoteinterpreting Click To Tweet

Based in Brasilia, Brazil, Marsel de Souza has over 20-years’ experience as an interpreter and translator, having worked with international organizations, leading pharmaceutical brands, diplomatic missions, and government agencies. According to Marsel, “Lack of direct visual contact can be a challenge in most interpreting scenarios. Being able to see someone’s face and reaction as they speak is an important part of the communication and translation process.”


To ensure the success of a remote interpreting session, there are myriad ways that these challenges can be approached.

“Preparation for a remote interpreting session is key, whether simultaneous or consecutive. Similar to on-site conference and liaison interpreting, as long as interpreters have background materials in advance, they can familiarize themselves with topics, terminology, and the overall goals of the session. Many on-site assignments involve rehearsals before the live event, especially in the pharmaceutical industry, and there is no reason why these rehearsals can’t take place remotely if you are using the right interpreting platform for your type of event,” states Marsel.

“Ongoing training is also crucial. As global organizations look to remote systems, the various computer-assisted tools can help to ensure a smooth, accurate session. If everyone is educated and fully equipped, then the gap in quality between in-person and remote interpreting will continue to shrink,” he continues.


Many interpreting scenarios require very high levels of quality and accuracy, especially in regulated sectors such as legal and life sciences. Communication errors can potentially cause serious, even fatal consequences. There are several ways to achieve success with remote interpreting:

  • Plan + schedule in advance. Guarantee (and book) the right interpreter, giving them time to digest any preparatory materials.
  • Identify + pre-select the best talent. Interpreting is a diverse and complex area. there are often specific skills required depending on the assignment, industry, and language pair.
  • Provide context + background. Allow the interpreter to become familiar with terminology and objectives.
  • Train interpreters + clients. Language service providers (LSPs) must provide the relevant training and education to ensure interpreters and clients are using appropriate language technology platforms.
  • Build relationships. Create collaboration between clients and the interpreting talent community to establish long-term, strategic partnerships.


Many global organizations are rethinking the way they do business and the approach to interpreting is no different.

A pandemic can bring uncertainty and tragic consequences, but it can also generate a shift in thinking, often acting as a catalyst to change. #remoteinterpreting #COVID19 Click To Tweet

“In the past, many interpreters and clients have been resistant to fully embracing remote interpreting, seeing on-site as the only option. As the world has been forced to do things differently, demand for remote work will increase. We need to approach remote interpreting in an organized manner. It’s not an easy step to go from on-site to remote. It requires new skills and a shift in mindset from interpreters, clients, and service providers.”

Welocalize Remote Interpreting Services

With changing requirements around multilingual, global support, Welocalize Life Sciences, a Welocalize company, provides a range of remote interpreting services to adapt to new ways of working.

“We’re here to bring the right spoken translation talent to clients in a range of industries, whether it’s for pharmaceutical drug briefings, patient communication, legal depositions, or virtual team meetings. Welocalize invests in training programs for our network of remote interpreters, educating them on the latest tools to deliver world-class interpreting services. With the right tools and collaboration, with remote language services, clients can have a wider selection of interpreting talent and can save costs,” adds Viviana Bernabe, Director of Global Interpreting, Welocalize.

How can Welocalize Life Sciences help your team manage its medical and clinical interpreting services in a remote environment? Contact us.

About Marsel de Souza

Marsel de Souza has over 20-years’ experience as an interpreter and translator, having worked with international organizations, leading pharmaceutical brands, diplomatic missions, and government agencies.