Replace “Medicalese” With Plain Language

“An elderly woman sent home from the hospital develops a life-threatening infection because she doesn’t understand the warning signs listed in the discharge instructions. A man confused by an intake form in a doctor’s office reflexively writes “no” to every question because he doesn’t understand what is being asked. A young mother pours a drug that is supposed to be taken by mouth into her baby’s ear, perforating the eardrum. And a man in his 70s preparing for his first colonoscopy uses a suppository as directed, but without first removing it from the foil packet.” These are not isolated events.

A 2006 study by the U.S. Department of Education found that 36 percent of adults have only basic or below-basic skills for dealing with health material. This means that 90 million Americans can understand discharge instructions written only at a fifth-grade level or lower. About 52 percent had intermediate skills: They could figure out what time a medication should be taken if the label says “take two hours after eating,” while the remaining 12 percent were deemed proficient because they could search a complex document and find the information necessary to define a medical term.

Studies have linked poor health literacy, which disproportionately affects the elderly, the poor and recent immigrants, to higher rates of hospital readmission, expensive and unnecessary complications, and even death. A 2007 study estimated the problem cost the U.S. economy as much as $238 billion annually. This problem will become even more severe in 2014 when tens of millions become insured.

The Joint Commission, which accredits hospitals, is requiring them to use plain-language materials and to “communicate in a manner that meets the patients oral and written communication needs” in providing care. For example, instead of “myocardial infarction”, use heart attack; instead of “febrile”, use fever; replace “hyperlipidemia” with high cholesterol. Doctors are also encouraged to replace “diet” with food; many folks when they hear diet believe doctors want them to go on a diet. It is also recommended replacing “exercise” with walking. In this case when patients hear exercise they believe they have to go to the gym. Replacing “medicalese” with plain language will save lives.

If you want to be sure you’re getting the right care, you have to be able to understand instructions. If you don’t understand, SPEAK-UP! Don’t be embarrassed; you’re not alone. These are life and death situations. There is no room for embarrassment!


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One Response to “Replace “Medicalese” With Plain Language”

  1. Mahendra November 13, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    Priorities that I know the American people want from their cdndiaate and what he/she are going to do about it:1. What are you going to do about climate change.2. When are we going to get rid of oil and start using alternative fuels like biodeisel, hidrogen, ethenol, solar, wind, electric (and I mean tesla electric pattents held by Westinghouse)3. When will we leave Iraq?4. Will you stand behind stem cell, not pfizer?5. Take action against illegal aliens breaking the law, and giving our boarders the right to protect our soveriegnty.6. Protect the “American people’s” interest 7. Get rid of the Patriot Act which, does not protect the people’s right to be free by spying on them8. Admit when you are wrong before the press chews you up, because the more intelligent Americans that understand the mainstream press are puppets and propaga peddlers, but your average Americans believe what the news tells them, even if it does have an opinion, which it should’nt.9. Use Youtube to campaign and get ideas, because this is the best link you will have with your people, and special interest groups only want what is best for them and their wallets. If you are such a cdndiaate your people will help you get to where you can help them make a difference.10. This is what I tell my own children. If it feels wrong, it is wrong. Use your best uncorrupted judgement. Don’t be afraid to tell the truth even in the face of adversity. Becoming the president of the United states of America carries with it a heavy burden, but if you have the people behind you to pool ideas and come up with solutions, we can not fail, “Country before self”. All great empires have fallen due to greed. We can not let this happen. “Duty, honor, integrity, and loyalty”. These should be foremost in your mind when charged with taking care of the Amerian people.

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