1. Rosenberg, Karen


According to this study:


* The use of medical jargon is often confusing to patients and should be avoided to prevent misunderstandings.


* Study participants had a mixed understanding of which terms were meant to convey good and bad news.



Article Content

Health care professionals frequently use jargon when communicating with patients, potentially causing confusion and serious consequences. Researchers conducted a cross-sectional study to characterize the general public's understanding of jargon, specifically terms that have one meaning in common usage but another in a medical context.


People representing a cross section of the public were recruited at the Minnesota State Fair. A total of 215 volunteers (mean age, 42 years; 65% had a bachelor's degree or higher) completed a 13-question survey with a mix of open-ended and multiple-choice questions assessing their understanding of commonly used medical jargon.


Participants had a mixed understanding of which terms were meant to convey good and bad news. Most, for instance, knew that negative cancer screening results meant they didn't have cancer, but fewer understood that "your tumor is progressing" was bad news, or that positive nodes meant the cancer had spread. In response to questions that paired jargon and nonjargon phrases, such as "NPO" and "nothing by mouth," significantly more respondents correctly interpreted the nonjargon phrase.


The authors point out that there is likely a naturally occurring bias in selecting volunteers who would visit a research building located on the fairgrounds and complete a survey during a fair. The researchers also note a bias toward participants who have higher education. Also, they concluded, the inclusion of multiple-choice questions may have allowed respondents to guess and provide answers that might not reflect their true understanding.


Gotlieb R, et al JAMA Netw Open 2022;5(11):e2242972.