ULG's Language Services Blog

6 Expert Tips for Compliant Healthcare Translations


Healthcare is understandably one of the most regulated industries in the US today. A long list of laws and regulations ensure that language barriers don’t keep people from accessing healthcare. But staying on the right side of them can be challenging, especially when they’re constantly changing.

Below are 6 expert tips for compliant healthcare translations.


The first step to compliance is to understand the laws. That sounds simple enough, right? As usual, the devil is in the details. Laws at both the federal and state level govern healthcare translation requirements. Here is a brief summary of some of the most important regulations.

  • Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin by any program or activity that receives Federal financial assistance.
  • The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR)requires that organizations take “reasonable steps” to ensure members have access to services even if they can’t speak English well.
  • Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Actr equires health plans and health insurance issuers to provide access to information in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. In practice, this means offering translation and interpreting services in up to 150 languages. Taglines informing customers of the availability of these services must be attached to all “critical documents” in the top 15 non-English languages in the state the policy was written for.
  • State-level regulations. Every state has at least two.

For a more in-depth summary of Section 1557 of the ACA, visit HealthAffairs.org.

Visit the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to see what the top 15 languages are for your state.

The Elephant in the Room: The fate of the Affordable Care Act (and its associated translation requirements) remains to be seen. That said, even if the laws change, the number of Americans with low English proficiency will not. Those people will still need access to healthcare services in a language they can understand. So regardless of whether legal requirements change, providing translation services will remain a best practice for business development and patient care.


Want compliant healthcare translations? Your organization needs to mind not only its p’s and q’s, but also its Ф’s and Ҫ’s. At ULG, we’ve seen a minor epidemic of translation errors that all have the same underlying cause . . . and it’s one you might not expect. Font and display issues can turn even accurately translated content into a confusing jumble of words in the target language.

Simply cutting and pasting translated text can result in embarrassing and costly translation errors if the program you’re using doesn’t support the script the original content is written in. Most frequently, we see this problem with languages that don’t use the Roman script.

For example, the HHS provides translated versions of the taglines required under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act on its website. These are available, free of charge, as a service to insurers, brokers, and other healthcare providers. How helpful. The work is done for you! All you have to do is copy the taglines, include them in your critical documents, and add your organization’s phone number. Easy, right?

Wrong. That’s how one of our clients ended up with language tag lines in Lao and Khmer that reference “pants” and “water.”


Fortunately, there are a number of possible software solutions depending on your business needs. We recommend avoiding Word documents in favor of InDesign and Illustrator. Sometimes, turning the text into an image is the best route to take. Alternately, the text can be wrapped into a PDF and locked. Either way, this prevents anyone from cutting, pasting or otherwise altering the way the translated text is displayed.

Want to get it right the first time, every time? Work with a professional language services company like ULG!  We provide accurate translations that use the appropriate fonts and are proofread by native speaking experts. Invest in accuracy now to avoid costly corrections, possible fines and a tarnished brand image later!

It’s the Little Things That Matter

Tiny things like spacing, line breaks, and character accents may not seem like a big deal. But they can alter the meaning of translated text, or even just make it difficult for your target audience to comprehend it.

Don’t Cut Corners on Quality Control

To be compliant, translations must be accurate. But ensuring accuracy in 15+ languages is a team effort. As result, it’s important to have your translated content attested by a professional language services provider that uses native speaking translators. This ensures that errors get caught and corrected before the material is published, not after!

You Need a System

A well-thought-out translation project management system ensures timely, accurate translations. Is your organization daunted by the amount of work involved in complying with healthcare translation regulations? Well, maybe you just need a better process!

Choose the Right LSP

Finally, choosing the right language services provider can alleviate many of these headaches. A company that uses native-speaking translators is essential. But that’s not the only thing your organization should look for. They should also be subject matter experts in the healthcare arena, with experience in the world of healthcare translations.

At ULG, our team includes native-speaking translators with extensive experience in healthcare translation. Meanwhile, our consultants guide you through the maze of healthcare access requirements and design translation solutions to keep your projects on time and on budget. Plus, our award-winning project management process saves you time and money. Contact us today!




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Compliance, Healthcare, Healthcare Translation