Can You Repeat That… In English?

Confused GirlOn Children’s Hospital Boston’s blog, Thriving, I read an entry by Dr. Sarah Teasdale about how health care providers often talk to their patients in medical language, and how confusing it can be for them. I agree. When I go to my HCP or I accompany a relative, the provider usually explains things using medical terms. Since I’m not a medical professional, I obviously don’t understand most of what they are saying, and so, I ask them to repeat it again; but in “English” this time.

However, Dr. Teasdale brought up a really good point. She said that making sure that patients understand medical explanations isn’t only the responsibility of the provider. Yes, HCPs should make an effort to talk to patients and explain things in a way that they can understand, but, we as patients have to understand that this may be hard for them to do since they’re used to talking in medical terms.

Aside from talking with you (the patient), the only time a medical provider discusses your situation is when they talk about it with other providers who speak “their language”. So, basically, you’re the only person that they have to explain it to that doesn’t understand their terms. Perhaps it doesn’t even cross their mind that they have to explain things to you in a different way.

With that being said, since it’s your health, it’s in your best interest to understand what your HCP is saying. So, if you don’t understand, interrupt them (politely) and tell them. They won’t get offended, and it will help you both communicate better. This way your provider will be doing his/her job in making sure that you understand what’s going on with your health, and most importantly, you’ll be more informed. You’ll no longer have to pretend that you understand “doctor talk” when in reality, you had no idea what they were talking about.