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About ISO 21998:2020 Healthcare Interpreting


This standard specifies requirements and recommendations for healthcare interpreting services in spoken and signed communication. It is applicable to all situations requiring healthcare interpreting, where the parties involved need to communicate using spoken or signed language, to treat a health-related issue. It is intended for interpreting service providers and healthcare interpreters.

Additional requirements

  •  healthcare interpreters;
  •  interpreting service providers;
  •  patients and accompanying persons;
  •  interpreter departments in healthcare organizations;
  •  government agencies;
  •  non-profit organizations;
  •  community organizations that provide interpreting services;
  •  employees that provide interpreting services;
  •  professional associations;
  •  healthcare organizations;
  •  educators and researchers;
  •  healthcare providers and staff;
  •  healthcare policy writers.


  • a) enable safe communication mainly between healthcare providers and patients;
  • b) provide linguistic access to healthcare services.
This online Workshop was developed in response to a worldwide growing demand to accommodate the interpreting needs of patients deprived of linguistic access to healthcare services and healthcare professionals, such as physicians, nurses, and healthcare administrative staff, as well as to strive toward patient safety, wellbeing, and dignity during interactions related to the provision of healthcare-related services. In those countries that do not have any recognized healthcare interpreting education in place, this online Workshop can serve as a guideline and basis for setting up a suitable legal, administrative and educational system for all healthcare interpreting stakeholders.
Healthcare interpreting is distinct from medical or healthcare-related translation. Translation involves the rendering of various forms of content into another language in written form, requiring a process and the allocation of a certain period of time for the task. Interpreting involves rendering spoken or signed messages from one language to another, either face-to-face or via distance interpreting. Some healthcare interpreters are qualified to provide medical translation, while others are not. Likewise, some medical translators may or may not be qualified to provide healthcare interpreting services, as these activities require different skill sets. When documents are not translated, healthcare interpreters sight translate the document into the other language. The provisions herein meet additional requirements that are specific and unique to healthcare interpreting and the healthcare environment.