“It scares the heck out of me that people are still thinking it is effective,” said Dr. Charles Lee, referring to a commonly used computer software program responsible for translating prescription labels.
Studies conducted in 2010 reveal that such push button translation programs are only around 50 percent accurate. This means that if you cannot read English and have therefore requested your medical prescription label be printed in Spanish, there is a 50% chance it could be delivering incorrect instructions!
Similar studies found that some instructions were left entirely untranslated. If the software program couldn’t understand a word like “dropperfuls”, for example, it simply left it in English. If a Spanish speaking patient went home with such instructions and was unable to follow up with an inquisitive phone call to the pharmacy, s/he could be easily misguided. Mistranslating dosages could be equally as dangerous; if a software program misinterpreted and/or mistranslated “one pill three times a day” as “three pills each time”, it could result in a dangerous or fatal overdose.
Offering translated prescription labels to a Spanish speaking audience could be an extremely beneficial service, but pharmacies much first understand that it requires more than just the push of a button. Otherwise, the potentially harmful outcome is just too high a cost.