Should medical questionnaires for patients be translated?

Published on 31/03/2023

Today we live in a modern world, where medicine is more focused on a holistic and personalised approach to patient care.

The translation of medical documents is very important to help patients fully understand their health conditions and the care they receive. Among these medical documents you can find the health questionnaires dedicated to patients.

Health professionals should create a patient questionnaire. It plays a key role in providing them with valuable information about the patient's medical history, lifestyle and symptoms in order to establish an effective treatment plan.

However, not all patients speak the same language... Did you know that there are up to 7,000 different languages in the world

For this reason, the translation of these health questionnaires can be crucial. It ensures a good level of understanding and also active participation in the medical care process from the patients.

In this article, we will share with you the three key aspects of translating patient questionnaires.

Negative consequences of not translating the questionnaires

First of all, you will know that patient questionnaires are a key element in the health care system.

However, they are often not translated. Failure to translate them can have many negative consequences, affecting both patients and health professionals.

Patients who do not speak the language of the country they are in may have difficulty understanding the questionnaires. This can lead to errors in the information collected and affect the quality of care received.

For example, non-translation can lead to a misunderstanding of the instructions given to patients. This can lead to incorrect answers and a wrong assessment of their health status.

It can also lead to misuse of medical and financial resources. Inappropriate treatments may be administered to patients due to diagnostic errors and clinical studies may be conducted with inaccurate data.

In addition, non-translation can lead to a loss of trust between patients and health professionals. Patients who do not understand the questions may feel ignored, which may discourage them from participating in clinical studies and treatment follow-ups.

The benefits of translating questionnaires for patients

Translation of patient questionnaires can improve patient’s active participation in health care. If a patient understands the questions being asked, they are more likely to actively participate in decisions about their medical treatment and provide the information needed to make the right decisions.

It can also improve the efficiency of medical care. If patients understand the questions asked and provide accurate answers, health professionals can obtain the information needed to provide the best possible care. This will reduce medical errors and improve healthcare outcomes.

In contrast to non-translation, translation of questionnaires can increase patient participation and confidence. This strengthens the relationship between patients and health professionals and improves patient satisfaction.

In addition, it can also help patients to better understand instructions on how to take care of their health. This can contribute to a better management of their medical condition

The translation of the questionnaires ensures that patients are not excluded from the research or study due to language barriers.

How to ensure the quality of the translation of the questionnaires?

You probably know that in the medical field the smallest mistake can be fatal. This is why you need to ensure the quality of the translation of the questionnaires.

Here are some tips for doing so:

First, hire a translation agency that works with qualified translators: it is essential to work with a professional translator who is competent and experienced in the medical field.

Ideally, the translator should be a native speaker of the target language with training or specific experience in translating medical documents. This means that they are able to understand complex medical terms and translate them clearly and accurately to avoid misunderstanding or confusion.

Then have the translation checked by another qualified translator to ensure the quality of the translation. For this, we recommend translation agencies such as AbroadLink Translations, which have ISO 17100 quality certification, guaranteeing that the translation has been reviewed. 

We also recommend translation agencies specialising in the medical field, which have ISO 13485 certification. They can ensure that you have a thorough knowledge of the specific medical terms and expressions often used in questionnaires.

Finally, we advise you to test patient’s understanding by carrying out a pre-test. This involves testing examples of the translation of the questionnaire on a small group of target patients to assess the comprehension and clarity of the questions.

You can even create a satisfaction questionnaire. In this way, you can collect comments and suggestions from patients to further improve the quality of the translation.


In conclusion, the translation of questionnaires is crucial to ensure a correct understanding of patient’s medical history and symptoms.

Healthcare professionals and translation agencies need to work together to ensure that the translation is done accurately, clearly and in a culturally and linguistically sensitive manner.

The negative consequences of non-translation can lead to misdiagnosis, poor decision making for appropriate treatments, and poor understanding of important information by patients. 

Ensuring the quality of the translation is therefore crucial for positive results and a better patient experience.  

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Emeline PADIEU's picture
Emeline PADIEU

Emeline holds a Master's degree in Applied Foreign Languages, specialising in International Management and International Trade Techniques. She completed her end-of-studies internship at AbroadLink Translations and now works there as a sales and marketing assistant

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