Medical Jargon Re-Translated in Online Spaces

Have you ever been told something by a healthcare professional that made sense but you didn’t quite understand it so you went online and spoke with some other people to get a better understanding of what that healthcare professional meant? Why could the healthcare professional not communicate clearly the first time the meaning of what they were trying to say, and why was it so important for them to use medical jargon in this type of situation? 

When reviewing “Classified Conversations: Psychiatry and Tactical Technical Communication in Online Spaces,” by Drew Holladay, she offers valid information about the importance of addressing medical jargon within the diagnosis of psychiatry and psychology. The key lesson of  this article is the way that online spaces are used to re-translate information given to us by the professionals. By addressing these types of communication difficulties within the healthcare field we can better adapt what we say to patients to make them feel more at ease about their diagnosis.

While it’s important to take into consideration the information that is on the internet, it is also important to realize that it may not all be accurate. The problem with using medical jargon when explaining diagnosis to patients is that if they don’t fully understand the meaning of what they are being told then they will rely on other sources such as  the internet for their information, rather than the trained professionals right in front of them. In the article, Holladay brings up an interesting point that information provided to patients is being “re-translated,” within online discussion forums. It’s not that these forums are speaking negatively about the medical practices, but putting situations into perspective for those in similar situations.

The healthcare field is not something that can change overnight, and it's important to recognize that these types of online forums are going to continue to stay in place because of the adversity that patients face. However, it is just as important to recognize the importance of these online forums to patients and the positive impact that they have on them. How do you think the medical field would benefit from having technical communicators working with them? 


Classified Conversations: Psychiatry and Tactical Technical Communication in Online Spaces, by Drew Holladay

Viewpoint Written by Rachel Spradling, Texas State University

Edited by Mariah Clem, Texas State University

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