The Cost of Medical Translation: What You Need to Know


When you have a medical translation project you want to outsource, the price naturally factors in your criteria for choosing who you’ll work with.

Is it going to be an agency? A freelancer? Managing a group of freelancers? Whether it’s translation, localization, copywriting, interpretation, or a combination of these, you’re still going to think about price.

However, with technical translation such as legal, medical, and information technology (IT), among others, there are a few price-related elements to consider.

For the purpose of this article, which is part of a series, we’ll be focusing on the cost of medical translation. There are many elements that impact translation costs in general, with four main aspects affecting the cost of medical translation specifically.   

Let’s explore what these elements are so you understand what’s happening behind the scenes when you’re translating medical reports or documents.

The growing need for medical translation

Translating medical texts isn’t something new. Medical translation and interpreting services have always been in demand.

This demand has increased since 2020 with the coronavirus pandemic and as more people began researching symptoms and nearby health services.

Today, many people research symptoms online and read medical blogs. In addition, more medical case studies and research papers are being published in every medical field – in multiple languages.

All of this has resulted in increased demand for professional medical translation services.

Types of medical content that need translation

So what types of content would require medical translation expertise as opposed to a generic translation?

If you’re translating a news piece, then chances are you won’t need to get into much medical detail. But if you’re translating a medical report or a patent or a case study, then you’d definitely need a medical or pharmaceutical background to render the content clear, accurate, and readable.

Here’s a list of documents and reports that often require a certified medical translator or agency to translate them:

  • Lab and test results (including X-rays and MRIs, blood tests,
  • Allergies report
  • Patient files and records
  • Drug tests
  • Physical examination reports and consultation reports
  • Hospital records
  • Patient discharge reports from hospitals and medical centers
  • Pregnancy and/or fertility reports
  • Insurance policy claims
  • Clinical research trials
  • Medical contracts and patents (though these may overlap with legal translation)

Factors that affect the cost of medical translation

Now let’s look at the main factors that impact medical translation costs.


1. Speed required in delivering the translation

Unlike other forms of translation, medical reports often come with the need for speed of delivery.

Whether it’s a hospital treating a foreign patient or a foreign doctor reviewing cases, many medical reports come with an ‘urgent’ tag and need to be translated quickly while maintaining accuracy.

These urgent requests naturally raise the cost of translation.

2. Whether it’s handwritten or typed

An issue you’ll encounter when dealing with medical texts is that some may be handwritten! Yes, doctors in many countries still write their diagnoses on paper and hand them over to their patients.

Getting a handwritten document means you’ll

  • Need to decipher the handwriting
  • Transcribe the information (optional but helps speed up the process later on if it’s a long prescription or diagnosis)
  • Review your glossaries and dictionaries for unfamiliar medical terms.
  • Translate the text (ASAP!)
  • Review the text (also ASAP!)

3. Language pairs

An element that affects the costs of translation in general and the cost of medical translation, in particular, is the language pairs you’re working with.

Some language pairs are more expensive than others. Similarly, some languages are considered ‘rare’ and are therefore more expensive to translate.

4. Requires a medical translator

Assuming you have a commonly-sought language pair, finding a certified medical translator is the next bottleneck you’ll have to deal with.

Translators with a medical background are a rare breed. These are people who studied medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, or nursing and then decided to switch careers.

In some cases, they can be translators who began as general translators, then specialized in medical translation.

In other cases, you may be looking for a unicorn that’s a certified medical translator.

And with scarcity, prices naturally go up a few notches.

5. Area of expertise

Saying that medicine is a HUGE field is an understatement. There are so many branches and each comes with several sub-branches.

While you will not be searching for such a super-specialized translator, the field your translation needs fall in can increase the price of the medical translation service you’re receiving.

What is the cost of medical translation?

By now your mind is making calculations and you’re keeping your fingers crossed as you wonder about the cost of translating medical documents.

While translation projects aren’t always priced on a per-word basis, we will be using a per-word price range so you can estimate how much you may need to pay.

With the exception of medical interpretation services, the average cost of translating medical texts ranges from $0.08 to $0.20 per word. This exact price depends on the language pair and the complexity of the medical text to be translated.

Wrapping it up

Medical translation is a niche type of translation, which means it can be more expensive than other types of translation.

Moreover, medical translation services incorporate several branches and different types of reports and documents.

If you need help translating medical documents and reports, get in touch with TranslationPartner for a free quote and consultation.