Medical Jargon – Should You Watch Your Language?

Do you have peripheral oedema? Do you have tachycardia and have you undergone an echocardiogram? Does ischemic heart disease run in your family? Do you ever experience paroxysmal nocturnal dyspnea or orthopnea? Were you given sub-therapeutic amounts of antibiotics?


Do you have ankle swelling? Do you have a fast heart rate and have you undergone a heart ultrasound? Does coronary artery disease run in your family? Do you ever experience waking up at night breathless or being breathless when lying down? Were you given lower amounts of antibiotics?

Describing conditions and disease states does not need to be complicated. Medical systems and brands have a responsibility to effectively communicate with their patient community according to their levels of health literacy. Health literacy is a wide spectrum so it is critical that brands tailor their message to align with their patients’ level of knowledge of medical jargon—because understanding your audience is key when deciding how to convey your message.

We put together examples of when medical terminology is appropriate, authentic to use and how it can even be an advantage.

Depending on which part of the patient journey you are communicating, you can act as the middleman between the patient and their physician to help prepare them for upcoming discussions and appointments.
– Survey your targeted patient population and see where their health literacy stands and where you need to fill in the gaps.
– Create patient resources that outline medical terminology in the disease space while explaining the meaning of these terms.
– Capture their attention in the type of media they use most frequently, providing information in an interesting and engaging way.

“Veteran” patients have likely prepared for their appointment by doing their own research and actively engaging with their physician. For these patients:
– Cut straight to the point when communicating key information.
– Partner with organizations and known individuals that are trusted sources in the space.
– Mimic the terms these patients are already using (e.g. abbreviations, acronyms, etc.) and show that you understand their journey and know enough about them to use this form of language.

Patients may be overwhelmed by information and medical terminology, so it’s essential to find creative ways to communicate your message.
– Use universal terms in each medical or disease space but highlight the terms that have the most importance and that the patient will see most frequently.
– Make sure you’re always using the agreed-upon meaning for that community, knowing that medical terminology can sometimes be interpreted in different ways.
– When certain terms that may seem to dull your outreach efforts, get creative when presenting information that includes medical terminology.
– Incorporate ways outside of plain text that can bring life to your message.

TELL US: Where has medical terminology been beneficial for your brand and where have you had to make adjustments to jargon-intense language?