The medical field requires professionals to be book smart, innovative, receptive, and skilled. It also requires these individuals to have an expansive vocabulary. Medical terminology is essential in both standardizing care and when communicating with other healthcare professionals.

It is important to realize, nevertheless, that medical terminology, like all things, has its place. It should not be used at all times. Using such terminology can be detrimental to patient relationships and health outcomes when used with the wrong audience. Below we highlight instances that demand complex medical language and instancing where dumbing it down can be lifesaving.


The Importance of Medical Terminology

Medical terminology is the universal language of medicine that describes the human body, its functions, diseases that impact it, and the procedures to correct them. Many words in medicine have Latin and Greek roots.

This standardized language allows healthcare professionals to collaborate easily and minimizes the number of mistakes made due to communication errors and inaccurate translations across languages. Medical terminology is also essential when it comes to standardizing recording patient history over time. Physicians may rely on medical records that are decades old. In this time span, simple language might have changed.

Medical terminology provides a reliable foundation that connects medical findings and history across time and space.


When to Use Simple Language

While medical terminology is exercised in physician-to-physician communication, and when keeping records, it is poor practice to use medical terminology in the presence of patients. While some patients may have a comprehensive medical vocabulary, most likely do not. Using medical terminology to discuss a diagnosis and treatment plan with these individuals can be costly to their health. If they don’t understand the prognosis or how to combat it, their health conditions will not improve.

Using simple, everyday language when speaking with patients ensures a physician gets their message across and the patient has the best chance at recovery and/or managing their diagnosis. For examples of frequently used medical terms that confuse patients, click here.


Telehealth as a Middle Ground

While the current state of healthcare demands the use of both medical terms and simple language, the future of medicine is changing. Telehealth, also referred to as telemedicine, point to this. With physicians and patients communicating through technology, translating short phrases and words can be done seamlessly with the use of natural language processing (NLP) technology.

NLP technology converts common language into medical terminology. It is a new and expanding focus in the field of information technology. This technology translates a caller’s medical request from simple language to medical terminology so that calls and medical histories can be easily recorded. It also allows for machines to pick up and transfer calls with efficiency. This will be increasingly important as telehealth becomes commonplace.


Ways to Practice Medical Terms and Simple Language

Clinical experiences provide participants the opportunity to practice their medical terminology in a real-world setting. It also provides individuals who participate in hands-on experiences to test out the success of simple language vs. medical terminology as they interact with patients while recording medical history and performing physical examinations.


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