Article: "Accuracy of Computer-Generated, Spanish-Language Medicine Labels"

Accuracy of Computer-Generated, Spanish-Language Medicine Labels

Iman Sharif, MD, MPH and Julia Tse, BA

This study published in Pediatrics examined the accuracy of the Spanish translations for medicine labels for a group of 286 participating pharmacies in the Bronx, NY. The majority of pharmacies that provided labels in Spanish used a computer program to generate the Spanish translation (86%). Alternatives for translation were to use a staff member (11%) or a professional interpreter (3%). 76 labels were analyzed with an overall translation error rate of 50%. The top three computer programs used were Micro Merchant, OPUS-ISM and BestRx, established pharmacy programs. 

This article draws attention to the important truth that provision of language resources without the assurance of quality and accuracy can do more harm than good. By providing a translation that mistranslates "once a day" and instructs "eleven times a day", health disparities for the limited-English proficiency population are widened, not diminished. Not only was "once a day" translated as "eleven times a day"; incomplete translations did not include the phrases, “dropperfuls,” “apply topically,” “for 7 days,” “for 30 days,” “apply to affected areas,” “with juice,” “take with food,” and “once a day.”

Accuracy is everything.