Banish These Five Terms From Medicine?

Ariel Harsinay


September 26, 2018

Breaking Habits

Dr Jennifer Fong Ha and colleagues at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Australia elaborate on the importance of the physician-patient relationship in their paper "Doctor-Patient Communication: A Review"[12]:

Good doctor-patient communication has the potential to help regulate patients' emotions, facilitate comprehension of medical information, and allow for better identification of patients' needs, perceptions and expectations. Patients reporting good communication with their doctor are more likely to be satisfied with their care, and especially to share pertinent information for accurate diagnosis of their problems, follow advice, and adhere to the prescribed treatment. Patients' agreement with their doctors about the nature of the treatment and need for follow-up is strongly associated with their recovery.

Dr Susan Guzman, co-director of the Behavioral Diabetes Institute, explained why language and word choice is critical in patient care.

"If you feel like you're to blame for having a disease and your doctor scolds you for not meeting goals, what about that says, 'I'm going to take a class and become more engaged'? These are all very good-intentioned physicians, but the way they talk to patients pushes patients away. Instead of calling patients noncompliant, they should try to find a way to work around the obstacles."

In response to people who claim that emphasis on language and word choice is a reflection of a movement to become "politically correct," Dr Guzman replied, "The whole 'politically correct' thing doesn't make sense to me. So, caring about people and what they think doesn't matter? [To] someone [who] says, 'I don't buy into any of this,' if all of your patients are at goal and are perfectly engaged, then completely ignore what I am saying. But if you have patients who are struggling, then you might want to consider it."

It is evident that there are several benefits to assessing your communicative skills with patients. While it may be difficult to stop using words that are already part of your vocabulary, being conscious of certain terms and how they make patients and coworkers feel is a small step toward ensuring the best quality of life for everyone involved.


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