I've heard people say that "medical school teaches you a new language" but that doctors don't learn how to translate that language well.
I attend a lot of meetings with physicians, and so I started putting words in my margins to look up. Things like "Baconian Induction" which to me, sounds like a cooking technique...but is actually part of the reasoning involved in scientific research, and "suboptimal hypertension control," which means your blood pressure is too high.
This is one of the reasons why health literacy is so important -- not just assessing it, but teaching doctors to remember that most people don't know these precise terms. There are good reasons why medical terms are so precise -- Where is it? What's happening? How often? Is it getting worse? What's the cause?
But for patients, it makes things more confusing, as they are trying to listen to the doctor, read his or her physical cues, and determine just how bad it is. The more we learn about medicine, the more we need to remember that people working outside the field need simple, topline information.
- What's is happening in my body?
- What should I do next?
- What will happen if I don't do that?
Health literacy sounds simple, but as we often say in writing: "If you can't explain something simply, you don't understand it well enough." (attributed to Albert Einstein)
So I'm collecting words on a roll of paper in my office, to remind myself to keep it simple.