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Techspeak and Medtalk in Healthcare

Info: 791 words (3 pages) Essay
Published: 5th Sep 2017 in Health

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According to Harvard Health Commentaries (2006), physicians and other health care providers often use technical language when talking to their patients about health related issues. They use words that are not particularly technical but to a person who is unfamiliar with medical terminology, these words may still be difficult to understand. This is called “techspeak” or “medtalk” (Harvard Health Commentaries, 2006). Arbetter (1992) and Harvard Health Commentaries (2006) emphasizes the importance of understanding doctors’ suggestions and recommendations in regards to health, however understanding their terminology will be a struggle. Learning a few Latin and Greek root words and some common prefixes and suffixes will help a non-medical person have greater understanding of “medtalk.” because most of the medical terms are composed of word parts that have their origins in Ancient Greek or Latin (Arbetter, 1992).

Harvard Health Commentaries (2006) suggest that taking a Latin class will not help much. They state the following:

“Perhaps that’s because many of the most common terms doctors used are simply “regular” words used in a different way than what is usual for most people. And while technical terms are more readily noticed and “translated,” the less technical terms may be even harder to spot and avoid.”

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Some doctors will use words or phrases to avoid giving patients misinformation. Harvard Health Commentaries (2006) gives this example: “After chemotherapy, the lesion on chest X-ray disappeared.” The term “lesion” could refer to a rash, lump or abnormality. The meaning of the term could refer to something insignificant or something severe. Physicians will use this term because more information is needed. They will avoid a more specific term such as “cancer” to describe the situation until there is more definitive information. This also prevents patients to worry about a medical situation that is still unclear.

 Although Arbetter (1992) considers taking a Latin and Greek class to be unhelpful in understanding medical terminology, learning common Greek and Latin root words, prefixes, and suffixes highly used in the medical field will give greater understanding of medical terminology, or the study of terms that are used in the art and science of medicine (Arbetter, 1992). Here are some common Latin, Greek, and prefixes and suffixes used in “medtalk” presented by Arbetter (1992).

  • Latin words, “vaso” or “angio” both means vessel or vessels, so an angiogram would mean an X-ray of the blood vessels. A vasodilator would be a drug that widens the blood vessels.
  • Prefixes “a” or “an” means absent or without. Anorexia means without appetite and anemia means without blood.
  • Prefixes “hyper” and “hypo” are often seen in medical terminology. Hyper- means increased or over, and hypo- means decreased, or under. Therefore, hyperthyroid would mean to have higher than normal activity of the thyroid gland and hypothyroid would mean just the opposite, to have lower than normal activity of this gland.
  • The suffix “-pathy” and “osis” means disease or refers to a condition. Thus, neuropathy would refer to any disease of the nervous system. Nephrosis is a disease of the kidney.
  • The suffix “-ectomy” refers to a surgical removal. An appendectomy is the surgical removal of the appendix.

It is advantage for non-medical people to know the meaning of medical terms because understanding health-related issues can be beneficial. Knowing some medical terms sometimes prevent unnecessary worrying and can give confident in dealing with daily health-care situations/

According to Harvard Health Commentaries (2006), it is important to talk to your doctor, listen carefully, and ask for explanations especially if something is unclear. It is also recommended to ask for clarification in situations where you encounter words that are unfamiliar.


Harvard Health Commentaries. 2006, November. Tech speak. Harvard Health Publications Group. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu

Arbetter, S. 1992. How to speak medtalk. Current Health 2, a Weekly Reader publication, May 1992, p. 24.


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