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Doctors told to use 'plain English', not Latin

06/09/2018

Have you ever received a letter from your doctor or physician and not been able to clearly understand its contents? If you have, we’ve got some positive news for you. That’s because the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges is urging doctors to do away with medical jargon in correspondence to patients and use easy to understand terms instead. For example, the academy says the term “twice daily” is much better than the often used Latin abbreviation “bd”, and says patients should ask their local hospital to follow the advice. Oftentimes, hospital doctors write letters directly to a patient’s GP and refer to the patient in the third person. However, this can lead to things being misinterpreted and even the patient being offended. The academy cites the example of a father who was praised for “manfully stepping in” when his wife could not take their daughter to an appointment because she (the wife) was too ill. Doctors are also being asked to try and soften potentially sensitive information and avoid stigmatising words. For example, “You have diabetes,” is better than “You are diabetic.” The initiative is being led by Dr Hugh Rayner, a kidney specialist, who has been writing to patients directly since 2005. He said: “The change may seem small but it has a big effect. “Writing to patients rather than about them changes the relationship between doctor and patient. “It involves them more in their care and leads to all sorts of benefits.”

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