Language Tips for Medical Tourists

Medical tourism is booming. According to Transparency Market Research’s report, “Medical Tourism Market,“ factors like aging population, escalating healthcare costs, and better exchange rates push the case for this rise in global medical tourism.

Besides escalating healthcare costs, many medical and surgical procedures are no longer covered by insurance providers. This has caused many Americans to cross borders in search of alternative, affordable options for their healthcare treatments.

But is it realistic (or safe) for travelers to only communicate in their native language when traveling to for medical care?

Medical jargon can be confusing in any language. Medical tourists can take several steps to ensure that they are linguistically prepared for their trip and avoid being lost without medical translation.

Translate your medical history before you travel. Detail any major illnesses, medication, allergies, etc. and avoid abbreviations. If you do have a medical emergency and no one can speak English, you can at least produce this document with your vital healthcare information. Find a professional translation agency to do it for you. Don’t rely on free websites or translation software.

Ask for information to b provided in your native language. If not, does the medical facility have access to on-site interpreters? Or, do they have other English-speaking staff?

Use a telephone interpreting service. There are several companies that provide immediate access to interpreters via telephone. You can also bring along a prepaid interpreter card. These cards provide pay-as-you-go interpretation between English and a number of other languages.

Know your emergency contacts. Ask the consulate, your medical travel agent, or hotel concierge if there is an emergency resource available, similar to a “9-1-1” service in the U.S. Note that in some countries, there are different emergency contact numbers for police versus ambulatory care. Tip: Here is a country-by-country list of emergency telephone numbers.

Bring resources with you. Carry a foreign language translation dictionary or a pocket translator with you at all times in case you do run into difficulties and need a little help making yourself understood. Most smart phones also have downloadable apps, however, keep in mind the cost of international data and roaming charges.

Ask for tools. Some facilities will have cards with common images on them where you can point to your illness, need, or food choice. You can also bring your own along. This is an especially good idea for people with severe allergies.

Learn basic phrases. It’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases before your trip. For example, “I do not speak Vietnamese. Do you speak English?” is a good start in addition to basic local greetings.

If your life depended on it, would you rely on using untranslated medical documents for your medical care or procedure?

Contact us if you’re in need of medical translation services.