Thursday, November 3, 2011

Medical Terminology

Question: Do most patients understand the nature of their medical problems and the nature of their medications in plain English?

Answer/Quote: “Professionals in health care settings often assume that patients are able to read he usual educational brochures, written instructions, consent forms, prescription labels and health questionnaires. However, adult patients with low literacy skills often try to hide their reading deficiencies, so potential problems with patient understanding are not recognized…. The discrepancy between patient reading ability and readability of medical information can be a crucial factor in patient health care, compliance, participation in preventive care, and clinical research.”

Comment: The authors of this article recommend a quick evaluation of a patient’s knowledge of terminology related to the medical field. It’s a problem. Not only do I have a hard time reading my Merck Manual on specific medical conditions, but I—an almost PhD in English education—can’t pronounce the names of my medications or have any complete idea of their purpose in my health care. I do receive long descriptions of the purposes, side-effects, etc. when I purchase the medications, but the length and size of the print are deterrents to my willingness to wade into the contents. These directions are not, generally, in plain English. I’m not sure how to solve the problem. RayS.

Title: “Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM): A Quick Reading Test for Patients.” P W Murphy, et al. Journal of Reading (October 1993), 124-130.

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