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What Happens When Your Patient Doesn’t Know What You’re Talking About

Reading something we don’t understand happens more often than we’d like. Reports laden with confusing and complicated language are challenging to get through, and when MRI and CT scan interpretations are written with dense and disconcerting terminology, it can be challenging to then relay that information to patients. This is particularly true for cancer cases.

According to The Guardian, the Royal College of GPs requested that physicians stop using the words “chronic,” “palliative,” and “hospice,” with their patients, as those words might have different connotations outside of the medical field. More so, 43 percent of patients might fail to understand critical terms pertaining to medicine dosage or blood pressure readings because they lack “health literacy.” A 2007 study pointed out that 81 percent of patient-physician interactions featured a misunderstood term.

Jennifer Kemp, MD, experienced the brunt of convoluted medical language when her husband was diagnosed with cancer. "I was absolutely shocked that the terms that I had grown so accustomed to were phrases that my husband found confusing and sometimes alarming," she told FierceHealthcare.

During patient consultations, it’s important to preface any discussion by inviting the patient to ask for clarification when something isn’t clear. They’ll appreciate the consideration, and will ultimately gain a stronger understanding of their condition.

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