Doctors urged to ditch medical jargon in favour of plain English
Getting information from a doctor can be confusing enough. The Academy of Royal Colleges is now championing clearer comms as a solution.
How’s your Latin? Do you know your Ad from your Ab? Didn’t think so…
Thankfully, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is now encouraging all medical professionals to rethink how they write to their patients.
“Communicating effectively with patients is central to being a good doctor,” explains the Academy. And to communicate effectively, the institution is recommending that doctors try and break an industry-wide habit: using medical jargon.
According to the Academy, medical professionals too often fall into the trap of defaulting back to academic speak – something that the average person on the street would have no idea about.
The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges’ top tips for fighting medical jargon:
Writing a diagnosis without using hard-to-understand medical terms can be impossible. Doctors should use medical terms but then make sure they are fully explained. For example: ‘You have an irregular pulse. This is called atrial fibrillation.’
All acronyms should be explained and written out in full.
Doctors should ditch the use of Latin, so instead of saying ‘bd’ use ‘twice daily’.
Active vs passive voice
The passive voice is traditionally used in scientific writing, but using the active voice is more engaging for readers.
Most of the tips above are bread and butter for communication professionals but it’s really encouraging to see the basics of clear communication being recommended as good practice.
What can other professions learn from this?
The use of jargon in a professional environment is by no means a medical-only problem. Every profession is littered with it.
Two simple tips can make all the difference in making your communications easier to understand.
The first is to use less words, which is easier said than done.It’s usually harder to write a story with a word limit of 200 words instead of 500 words. The best approach is to just start writing without thinking. When you’ve finished, then it’s time to look through and edit. Read everything back and challenge yourself to cut out useless words and phrases.
The second is using plain English. Writing good copy is all about being clear. Readers will be turned off if you start spouting like you’re Russell Brand; jamming in overly verbose or loquacious or garrulous or voluble or orotund terminology.
Keep it simple and relatable.