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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Engaging also means sharing language

I read a short history and physical this morning.  It was filled with abbreviations common to physicians, and I've seen things like this before: ROS, PE, ABD, HEENT, HTN, Rx, Tx, Dx, Hx, Px, BP.  If I were to alphabetize the list and present it without contextual cues, I bet a number of trained physicians might even misinterpret some of these.  With contextual cues and a trained person, I'm certain they wouldn't as much.

These are useful ways to create information.  From a UX (I mean User Experience, see other groups do this too) perspective, it is pretty clear that providing mechanisms for expert entry of information is quite useful and speeds up the process. But from other perspectives, including presentation, it's not as usable for everyone.

When we (provider and patients) want to be engaged with each other, it's very clear that we need to move more closely towards patient language.  Medical language is quite precise, but we can simplify a good deal of it: Which question would stop you in your tracks?  Do you have nocturia?  Or Do you pee at night?  Have you ever been short of breath?  Did you ever experience dyspnea?

In some ways language helps establish norms and culture.  Geeks invent their own language, and we are surrounded in acronym soup all the time.  Medical geeks do the same thing.  What's a bit different with medical geeks is that their language has been around quite a bit longer, and may be a harder habit to break.

As technologists, we may be able to help mediate that transformation between what the physician sees and what the patient understands.


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