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Localization of Medical Devices: User Interfaces

Nowadays, most medical equipment uses software to add features, offer configuration options and make devices more accessible. The software user interface affects the interaction between the medical device and whoever is operating it, which means its localization is crucial. 

Here we have a look at six key factors to keep in mind when localizing software for medical devices.

Communication between the parties

When translating user interfaces, communication between the parties involved is vital. Everyone, from the project manager to the linguists, needs to understand the aim of the medical device and how it works.

Strings & Character length

UI localization involves the translation of UI strings. Strings are sequences of characters which can represent a constant or a variable within the software. Strings have length limitations, which is a problem with language expansion, a very common consequence of translating from English into certain languages such as Spanish.

Context

Often, placing strings within the context can be hard, as strings might be isolated for translation purposes. Linguists need to make sure whether they are translating a title or a button, and know what the string is indicating.

Register

Medical devices are used both in hospitals and at home, with both medical professionals and patients accessing and operating them, this content varies in tone, register and degree of specialization: sometimes the text has been written for specialists, while other times it is aimed at patients with little or no medical background.

Testing

Once the translation has been finished, an important step involves checking that it works in the context of the user interface. This is generally done through screenshots showing the localized software, which need to be validated by the linguists. The main concern is patient safety, as any mistakes in the translation, or user interface could mean a threat to the user’s health.

Compliance

Each country has its own steps and rules that medical device manufacturers need to comply with. Countries establish what documentation needs to be turned in, and all of the paperwork will need to be translated into that country’s official language. Over 60 countries in the world have regulations in place, such as the Medical Device Directive 93/42/EEC, for products in Europe.

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