The Coffey Blog

Say it plain: Cut the jargon from your healthcare content

Posted on: Monday, September 14, 2015

Thomas Lederer, Copy Chief

As a healthcare marketer, relaying information to your community or members is what you do. On any given day, that might be writing a press release for your hospital's website, an article for your healthcare magazine or e-newsletter, an ad for the newspaper, or posts for social media. 

For your messages to truly engage healthcare consumers, you need to avoid one of the biggest barriers to communication: jargon. 

Jargon happens whenever healthcare professionals communicate with one another. We know the lingo. But what makes sense to those of us working in the field may be lost on a wider audience. 

4 problems with using jargon in your healthcare content

Here are some good reasons to keep jargon out of the materials you produce for healthcare consumers:

1. Jargon is easily misunderstood. For insiders, certain words and phrases have a very specific, narrowly defined meaning. But that’s not always obvious to the average reader. 

For example, health organizations may have a "medical home" model of care. But that term on its own could be confusing to healthcare consumers. They might assume it means they’ll get care where they live.

2. Jargon is impersonal. You may be a 120-bed hospital—but you care for people and families. And "bed" or "case" is just not a good synonym for "human being." Likewise, "patient flow" may call to mind images of conveyor belts or airport security lines that are not going to create a sense of trust and comfort in your brand. 

3. Jargon is imprecise. Or at least to the person who doesn't speak it. For instance, most of your readers are not medical professionals and won't know what precisely is included in "comprehensive care." And why would they know what "continuum of care" or "palliative therapies" are?

4. Jargon creates barriers. There's no better way to lose your readers than by talking over their heads. Avoid terms that are uncommon and confusing.

And avoid long words that are used for their own sake. For example, replace "We are concerned with facilitating care" with "We care." Replace "We are leveraging an efficiency initiative" with "We're working more efficiently."

Be clear: Cutting out the medicalese

Here are some tips to help you keep jargon at bay:

  • Use simple, familiar words as much as possible.
  • Explain technical terms and concepts. Use examples to illustrate what you mean.
  • Replace unclear or technical words with ones that have the same meaning but speak to the reader. For help with this, check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Plain Language Thesaurus
  • Write as if you were explaining your topic to a friend or family member.

Let us help!

Mired in medicalese? Looking for expert support? Coffey's writers and editors have a wealth of experience creating healthcare information that is easy to understand—for print, websites, social media and e-newsletters.

To discover how we can help you deliver your healthcare message, call 888.805.9101 or email us.

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