Language Medical Terminology

The Language of Healthcare: When Did Patients Become Outcomes?

For some time I’ve been thinking about the language of healthcare. We all talk about taking the industry in a more patient-centric direction, but the language we use is anything but patient-friendly. At times, it isn’t even physician-friendly. I remember interviewing physicians as a part of a study I was conducting for an ACO (acronyms are even less friendly), and the doctors complained vehemently about the leadership’s use of terms like the “Triple Aim,” “interface engine,”  and “interoperability.” To them, this was business school speak, and didn’t reflect a true effort on the part of leadership to communicate effectively with the physicians.

Of course, we are an industry that loves its acronyms. Much of this is “insider speak,” whether we acknowledge it or not: EMR, EHR, ACO, PCMH, PPO, PCP, OTC, AQC. I could go on, but I won’t. As “providers” strive to improve quality, access and outcomes, what do those terms mean to the average person on the street? (Providers is another word that doesn’t strike me as being very friendly.) Most people I know who work outside of healthcare don’t have a clue what we mean by “quality.” And even if they know what we mean by “outcomes,” is that the kind of language we want to use? At what point does a patient become an outcome? That sure doesn’t sound patient-friendly or patient-centric to me. It sounds like the kind of language we’d use if we were manufacturing widgets. We need to do better than that. There is power in language, and we need to use is intentionally. (Okay, that’s the end of my rant.)

I found this humorous video on YouTube. It deals with medical terminology and seems germane to this rant. I’ll warn you in advance: The video uses adult language, as well as medical terminology. Some may find the use of adult language (although limited) offensive. If you are that person, don’t watch this video. The rest of you, enjoy!

2 comments on “The Language of Healthcare: When Did Patients Become Outcomes?

  1. Pingback: Attachment B – Ragab AA., validity of Self-Assessment Outcome Questionnaires: Patient-Physician Discrepancy in Outcome Interpretation, 39 Biomed. Sci. Instrum. 579-84 (2003) « Earl's View

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