Overcoming language difficulties with AI and Azure services

Posted on August 8, 2019

Principal Healthcare Program Manager, Industry Experiences

Ever hear the Abbot and Costello routine, “Who’s on first?” It’s a masterpiece of American English humor. But what if it we translated it into another language? With a word-by-word translation, most of what English speakers laugh at, would be lost. Such is the problem of machine translation (translation by computer algorithm.) If a business depends on words to have an impact on the user, then translation services need to be seriously evaluated for accuracy and effect. This is how Lionbridge approaches the entire world of language translation—but now they can harness the capabilities of artificial intelligence (AI). The result is to ensure the translations reach a higher bar.

The Azure platform offers a wealth of services for partners to enhance, extend and build industry solutions. Here we describe how one Microsoft partner uses Azure to solve a unique problem.

Efficient partners for communication in life sciences

For those who deal in healthcare or life sciences, language should not be a barrier to finding the right information. The world of research and reporting is not limited to a few human languages. Life science organizations need to be able to find data from anywhere in the world. And for that, a translation service is needed that preserves not just the facts, but the effect of the original data. This is the goal of Lionbridge, a Microsoft partner dedicated to efficient translation.

In addition to localization, Lionbridge also serves as a guard against other dangers related to document handling. For example, there may be insufficient information provided to get a patient’s informed consent. Or a patient’s data can be disclosed by mistake. The penalties for any privacy violations can be steep. Having a third party whose sole business is to govern the documentation provides additional security against data mishandling.

The company can’t do this work on its own. It stresses a collaborative partnership approach to achieve the results needed. That begins with having fluency with human languages as well as with the technical domains. From their literature:

“Our team partners with yours to turn sensitive, complex, and frequently-changing content into words that resonate with every end user—from regulatory boards to care providers to patients—around the world. Our clients include pharmaceutical, medical device, medical publishing, and healthcare companies as well as Contract Research Organizations (CROs). Each demands strict attention to detail, expert understanding of nuanced requirements, and the utmost care for the end user.”

It comes as no surprise that Lionbridge depends on a host of skilled, professional translators—10,000 translators across 350 languages.

Specialized solutions

Due to the highly specialized service needs, the company operates as a consultant. After a meeting and evaluation of existing documentation and workflows, they will deliver a new workflow that includes technical services built on Azure. The company also creates a secure document exchange portal for managing translation into 350+ languages. The portal integrates with advanced workflow automation and AI powered translation. This advanced language technology enables far greater speed and volumes to be translated with increasing efficiency, opening up new languages, markets, and constituents for customers.

Lionbridge’s portal and translation management system have the appropriate controls in place in order to support a HIPAA-compliant workflow and are supported by globally distributed “Centers of Excellence.” The staff of the centers ensure adherence to ISO standards and are trained in supporting sensitive content, including personal health information (PHI).

The graphic shows the processes that are involved in creating a translation project. The project must first be defined. The project is then handed off to Lionbridge through their “Freeway Platform.” From there, it undergoes the translation process, with quality checks. The customer can see progress and results at a dashboard until the project is deemed complete.

A graphic showing the end-to-end workflow and processes that are involved in creating a translation project.

Azure services used in solution

  • Azure App Service is used as a compute resource to host applications and is valued for its automated scaling and proactive monitoring.
  • Azure SQL Database is appreciated for its automated backup, geo-replication, and failover features.
  • Azure Service Fabric supports the need for a microservices oriented platform.
  • Azure Storage (mostly blobs) is used in many applications, including for CDN purposes to allow users to access application content in many parts of the words with high speed.
  • Azure Cognitive Services is used by some applications to provide AI capabilities.

Next steps

To find out more, go to the Lionbridge offering on the Azure Marketplace and click Contact me.

To learn more about other healthcare solutions, go to the Azure for health page.