For cost-effectiveness, set translation criteria

A point system helps to determine need

Translating patient education materials into foreign languages is costly; therefore, it is important to select those that would benefit the greatest number of patients. Yet without criteria to evaluate each piece, it is difficult to determine which ones should be translated. To take the guesswork out of the process, the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) in Seattle created a set of criteria. "Our criteria was put together by the patient and family education committee in 1996 and it has worked, says Etta Short, MS, a health educator in Patient and Family Education Services.

Each year, a task force uses the criteria to determine which educational materials to translate. The pieces are ranked by a point system and must receive at least 3.5 points to be considered for translation. A document may be rejected because the volume or material required is too low, a similar tool may be available in the desired language from another source, or authorship is not the UWMC.

The following are the criteria used:

  • High volume of non-English-speaking patients. If a department could distribute the educational piece to five or more patients each month, it receives one point.
  • Patient instructions are used in other clinical settings at UWMC. If materials are used in other clinical settings, the piece receives one point.
  • The material has been reviewed for accuracy within the last three years. If the material is up-to-date, it receives one point.
  • The material targets high-risk/problem-prone patient groups. If the written piece helps to educate high-risk/problem-prone patients, it receives one point. These include pre-surgery instructions, insulin regimens, and instructions for after-procedure care such as a coronary intervention.
  • The material is authored in house. If the University of Washington Medical Center produced the piece, it receives half a point.
  • Patient education material is not available through another vendor. If the material is not available in desired language(s) from commercial sources, it receives half a point.