KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Battling Medical Jargon In Doctor’s Office May Improve Patient Health

The Wall Street Journal reports on efforts to make the language used in doctors' offices easier for patients to understand.

"Nearly nine out of 10 adults have difficulty following routine medical advice, largely because it's often incomprehensible to average people, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says." The result is bad for the health care system, driving up costs and leading to poor patient outcomes. "Confused by scientific jargon, doctors' instructions and complex medical phrases, patients are more likely to skip necessary medical tests or fail to properly take their medications, the [CDC] says." Federal and state officials are trying to change that. "More than two-thirds of state Medicaid agencies call for health material to be written at a reading level of between the fourth and sixth grades. A new federal program called the Health Literacy Action Plan is promoting simplified language nationwide. And some health insurers, doctors' practices and hospitals have begun using specialized software that scans documents looking for hard-to-understand words and phrases and suggests plain-English replacements" (Landro, 7/6). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.