Top Story: Jargon alert: How doctors speak could cause 'harm' for patients
Dr. Michael Pitt in the Department of Pediatrics spoke to NBC News about a newly-published study in JAMA Network Open that showed the language doctors often use tends not to translate easily into everyday English. Dr. Pitt and his research team tested how well people understood medical jargon by surveying 215 fairgoers at the 2021 Minnesota State Fair. "If our patients don't understand what we think is going on, what our treatment plan is, what we're asking them to do to get cured, better, healthy, we actually could be causing physical harm,” he said. “They might be less inclined to actually follow up on the actual steps necessary, which could delay care," he said.
Researchers say the language doctors use with patients could leave them feeling confused and vulnerable. For example, when a doctor says their patient's chest X-ray is “impressive,” they are translating, “This worries me.” More than 21% of survey respondents did not understand that “your tumor is progressing” meant that cancer was worsening.
Patients should be comfortable enough to ask doctors, nurses, and any other health care personnel to explain themselves clearly. It is a priority for patients to feel heard when discussing their health.