From Our Lips To Whose Ears? Consumer Reaction to Our CurrentHealth Care Dialect Health Care Dialect
Murray Ross, PhD; Toyomi Igus; Sophia Gomez
Winter 2009 - Volume 13 Number 1
Every profession spawns a dialect, a language that facilitates efficient communication among insiders. In written communication, that dialect often becomes even more compact, as acronyms and code words are substituted for "plain text." This tendency has received some attention in the government sector (where efforts to translate bureaucratic jargon into English periodically gain media attention) but much less so in health care. Yet we may well have reached the point in health care at which the dialects spoken by practitioners and health policy experts are not just confusing to outsiders, but actually prevent us insiders from achieving our goals. The findings presented here emerged from what began as a qualitative marketing study, but which revealed a tremendous gap between what health care professionals say and what health care consumers hear.
That the unfettered use of our professional dialect may be counterproductive is highlighted as two recent health care trends collide: the ever-increasing complexity in the language of health care occurring at the same time that we are asking lay people—as patients, consumers, and voters—to take a more active role in their health and health care choices.