Ada vs. Dr. Jargon

Medical terminology or ‘jargon’ in doctor–patient consultations is now a mainstay of popular culture references to the health system. Typical scenes begin with a doctor lapsing into a complicated string of medical terms while patients furrow their brows in confusion, and end with the doctor translating their diagnosis into ‘plain English’. “Chest auscultation was non pathological” becomes “Your breathing is fine”.

Medical terminology is made up of Greek and Latin suffixes such as ‘itis’, which stands for ‘infection’ (tonsillitis) and prefixes such as ‘ab’, which stands for ‘away’ (abscess). Healthcare professionals often have good reason to use such terms; when spoken among other people who studied medicine, it can be quicker and more precise — particularly in the emergency room where there’s no time or space for error.

However, doctors’ increasing workloads and decreasing time to spend with patients can lead to medical jargon finding its way into the clinic. Patients who have accessed inaccurate medical information online about their symptoms before their appointment can add to the confusion. My doctor has found a less-than-subtle way to express this frustration: a mug on his desk says ‘please do not confuse your Google search with my medical degree’.

Ada provides credible, patient-friendly health information to make managing health an empowering and positive experience. Making symptoms and conditions easy for everyone to understand means we’ve removed one more barrier to accessing medical expertise.

Of course, Ada’s sophisticated medical knowledge and charming, doctorly manner — direct enough to get to the point yet always polite, and never too colloquial — requires the work of human doctors. Our medical content team — a brilliant bunch of more than 40 doctors, specialists and scholars — creates original, patient-friendly information for Ada.

It’s half an art, half a science: choosing simple words that Ada users easily understand, while making sure those words accurately represent the correct medical term. This involves transforming findings from peer-reviewed medical journals into patient-friendly health information — in other words: ‘plantar fascitis’ becomes ‘heel and foot pain’, ‘upper extremity’ becomes ‘arm’, and ‘emesis’ becomes ‘vomiting’.

Patient-friendly health information has another meaning that is important at Ada: communicating in a way that doesn’t contribute to cyberchondria. This is a contemporary condition of the ‘information age’ that typically takes hold after searching for symptoms online in sources that don’t necessarily have medical credibility. Think of it as hypochondria 2.0. This meaning of patient-friendliness will be covered in part 2 — Ada vs. Cyberchondria.

To your health,

Celia