The Great Divide: Why Medicine Can Be Confusing

A nutrition student gives some reasoning as to why medicine is confusing.

Advertisements

Imagine this scenario:  Your doctor hands you some papers that you need to read and sign through.  The words are small, so you need to squint to see them.  The page just seems filled with words.  Eventually you reach the bottom where your signature is required.  How many non-medial people think to themselves “what the fuck did I just read?”

Now imagine this other scenario: you talk to your doctor after some blood work.  They talk about several problems, perhaps something with “triglycerides” or “hypertension.”  Not wanting to look stupid, you nod in agreement, despite the fact you have no idea what was just said.

These are issues real enough in medicine, that I am taking a class on how to write a document to the lay-person.  Whose fault is it that there is this breakdown in communication?  Is it your fault that you don’t understand the doctor?  Or is it perhaps the doctor’s fault for not knowing their audience?

Personally, I think it’s the latter.  The class I am taking that teaches nutrition students how to write for a lay-audience discussed that the average reading level in America is 8th grade.  Meaning that there are several people like me who can read a research article, understand what is going on in the study, and then report it back as a summary or as a point of evidence.  There are also several people that struggle with reading materials that are considered “basic.”

How can communication between medical professionals and patients be improved?  For starters, I think documents have more whitespace (the spacing around paragraphs), bigger font sizes, and definitions next to some key words.   Whitespace and larger font sizes improves readability, while definitions help people understand.  If you are unfamiliar with “triglycerides,” on a document, the paperwork can instead say “triglycerides (fat found in blood).”

Doctors and other medical professionals can also use more casual language when talking about health issues.  Instead of telling the patient they have “hypertension,” the doctor could tell them they have “high blood pressure.”  Not everyone understands medical jargon.  Simplifying the language used can help patients understand the issue and how to correct it.

In case you were curious, this blog post has a reading level of 8.9, meaning that someone who is almost a 9th grader most likely can understand this piece.  Some of the reasons it’s higher is I had to use several complicated words to explain my point.  I also have longer sentences with more than one idea, which raises the reading level.

Also, if you feel I am picking on the lay-person, keep in mind I am the lay-person in several topics.  There have been times when friends and family have talked about something outside of the food and nutrition realm and I have been like “huh?”

Any other ideas you guys have for improving the readability of documents?  Any advice a non-medical person can give to a soon-to-be medical professional to make documents easier to read?

Author: The Nutrition Punk

Some snarky college student at Oregon State University studying nutrition. Listens to too much rock, heavy metal and other loud music. My goal is to have a place to eliminate some misinformation about nutrition while trying to be funny about it. Note: I am not a doctor, so any advise on this site is not meant to be taken as medical advice.

11 thoughts on “The Great Divide: Why Medicine Can Be Confusing”

  1. Thanks for giving superb informations. Your web-site is really cool.
    I’m amazed by the details that you simply have on this site.

    It shows how nicely someone perceives this subject.

    Bookmarked this web page, will return for extra articles.
    You, my good friend, ROCK!

    Like

  2. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your site. It’s very easy on the eyes making it far more pleasant
    for me to come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer to
    create your theme? Outstanding work!

    Like

  3. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    Like

  4. Hi there excellent blog! Does running a blog like this take a great deal of work?

    I’ve no understanding of computer programming however I was hoping to start my own blog
    soon. Anyways, if you have any suggestions or tips for new blog owners please share. I know this is off topic but I just wanted
    to ask. Kudos!

    Like

    1. Making a blog like this takes some work, more dedication than anything. Trying to have weekly topics while studying in university can be a struggle.

      I don’t know much about coding either; everything I use on the site is pre-done by WordPress, aside from my banner.

      As for tips for new bloggers, I recommend writing about what you enjoy or are knowledgeable in, and continuing to write even if it seems nobody is reading. Eventually people will find what you are writing, and if it is quality, people will return to read future posts.

      Like

  5. I appreciate editorial in the region of %BT%? It
    sounds so competent will probably be part of it the actual
    talk about it! I have to gather more information more knowledge about it in my blog
    page!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s