In-House vs. Outsourced Translation: Which Is Best for Clinical Content?

welocalize October 5, 2022

The scope of clinical research organizations (CROs) goes beyond clinical trial management. On top of medical device and drug development, CROs are also in charge of bringing new products to the global market. This involves localization, marketing, and regulatory approvals. 

CROs traditionally work with language service providers (LSP) for their localization and global regulatory compliance needs. Other CROs also invest in internal translation operations, including supporting technology and language professionals. 

The question is, should more CROs venture into the translation space? Or should the challenges of clinical translations stay in the hands of experienced LSPs? 

In this post, we explore the advantages and challenges of both strategies. 


Benefits of In-House Translations

Internal translation operations have a few benefits.

1. Better Communication 

Working with language experts in the same building allows for more seamless communication. 

The right tools and collaborative environment can lead to faster turnaround times (though it’s not always the case). In-house translators also accelerate the feedback loop and improve the efficiency of your translation operations over time.  

2. Granular Control Over Project Timeline 

As an integral part of your organization, in-house translators work under your terms. 

You have direct control over their schedule and how they spend their time. To ensure the timely completion of projects, you may also reduce or increase your team’s hours whenever necessary.  

3. Scale Your Operations According to Your Needs 

An in-house team lets you tailor your translation operations to your specific needs. 

Choose what goes into your translation technology stack, who joins your team, and how to use resources as per the project’s demands.  

4. Build the Training Process Based on Your Requirements 

An internal language team lets you control your training process’s range, pace, and methods. 

You could maximize efficiency with training aligned with your organization’s goals, translation technologies, and products. This streamlines the training process and reduces the overall cost of onboarding new hires.  


What Are the Challenges Associated with In-House Translations? 

While internal translation operations offer numerous benefits, building and managing an in-house translation team has its challenges. 

  • Handling regulatory approvals and certifications. By spearheading the creation of your translation team, you’re responsible for upholding regulatory standards and ensuring compliance. This includes the standards set by the International Organization for Standardization involving medical device content translations. 
  • Finding qualified clinical translators isn’t easy. Translators not only need to be experts in their target language(s), but they also need to be experienced and skilled when it comes to clinical/medical translations.  
  • Building an in-house translation team involves higher upfront costs than partnering up with an LSP. This considers all the expenses related to hiring, managing, and retaining full-time translators.


Benefits of Outsourced Translation 

Despite the emergence of internal translation teams, LSPs remain in high demand for the following reasons.  

1. Cost-Effectiveness 

LSPs offer on-demand translation services that fit all sizes and budgets. 

With an in-house team, you pay translators a fixed price regardless of the amount of material to be translated. You can switch them to other localization tasks outside of translations, however, this may affect their productivity and reliability. 

If you work with an LSP, you pay on a per-project basis. You also don’t have to pay for the costs involved with employee recruitment, training, and retention. 

2. More Rigorous Quality Checks 

Trusted LSPs implement additional quality checks using human and machine translators. 

Machine translation (MT) software uses language models and algorithms to automate the translation process. It can translate large quantities of text while also reducing human error, taking the efficiency of clinical content translations to a whole new level. 

For quality assurance, MT is paired with professional linguists who comprehend the source text and grasp the cultural nuances around a target language. These professionals also possess a set of hard and soft skills, like proficient copywriting and critical thinking. 

3. Agile Localization Methodology 

Agile methodology in localization involves dividing the project into smaller chunks and processing them simultaneously and separately. 

This modular approach enables localization teams to identify issues early and complete translation tasks more quickly and efficiently. It also makes it easier to reuse translated chunks of content in any document covering the same topics. 

Top-tier LSPs incorporate agile methodology into their workflows, which is extremely challenging to do with an internal team unless they prepare for agile localization from the very beginning.  

4. Ongoing Compliance with Standards and Regulations 

LSPs include a dedicated team whose sole responsibility is ensuring ongoing compliance with international regulations, particularly medical translations. 

Bear in mind that compliance and regulatory requirements are constantly changing. 

CROs that maintain their internal translation team are always on their feet planning and spending resources to integrate new changes into their workflows. This starts a domino effect that barrels through their team’s productivity and output quality. 

An LSP with certifications, industry knowledge and years of experience in the localization landscape, will help you avoid the penalties associated with the slightest translation errors and compliance oversights. 

5. Automated Workflow Management  

Working with an LSP offers the simplest way to complete medical translation projects. 

You pay for their work, and they’ll deliver. 

You don’t need to entangle yourself with the complexities of medical translations to bring products to new markets. In turn, you can divert your focus and resources into your areas of expertise.  


What Are the Challenges Associated with Outsourced Translations? 

Outsourced translations may be more reliable, cost-effective, and convenient, however, they aren’t perfect.  

  • Last-minute changes can’t always be made at the last minute. Unlike in-house teams, outsourced translations don’t always immediately respond to last-minute requests. Proven LSPs still respond within reasonably fast timeframes, however, they don’t always respond in an instant.  
  • In-house teams give better peace of mind. LSPs are bound to nondisclosure agreements to protect their clients. However, for businesses and organizations that are particular about confidentiality, letting third parties handle sensitive information isn’t an ideal situation.  


Work With Welocalize Life Sciences 

By assessing the benefits and challenges outlined above, outsourced translations are, by a mile, a safer and more effective option than building an internal team. 

You just need to pick a language service partner you can trust. 

Welocalize Life Sciences is a leading language service provider for pharmaceutical, biotech, medical device, and healthcare companies. We belong to the top 2.14% of LSPs that hold ISO 9001:2015, ISO/IEC 27001:2013, ISO 13485:2016, ISO 17100:2015, and ISO 18587:2017 certifications. 

Get in touch with us to discuss your medical translation requirements.