Medical jargon has been described as a second language used by healthcare professionals to shorten and ease communication. In patient care, this "medical shorthand" can cause confusion and diminish understanding between healthcare professional and patient.
It can also cause confusion and misunderstanding between healthcare professionals because each healthcare specialty has its own set of unique medical terminology and acronyms. To promote health literacy, the use of medical terminology and acronyms in patient encounters is discouraged. For interprofessional teams, avoiding the use of unfamiliar medical terms and acronyms as well as making sure all team members, including patients and their family members, understand any medical terms and acronyms used to support collaborative practice and sound patient care.
This list of medical words decoded into plain language was developed by the Medical Library Association to help patients understand their healthcare provider. Healthcare professionals can use it to help translate medical terminology into simple language in order to improve patient communication.
The demands of communicating verbally with patients are explored with an emphasis on the impact of medical jargon on patient understanding. Tips to improve patient communication for healthcare professionals are offered.