Not the terms in your head
When it comes to medical terms, readers don’t know what communicators are talking about, according to T. J. and Sandar Larkin.
We say “hemorrhage”; they say “bleeding.” We say “sutures”; they say “stitches.” We say ” metastasize”; they say, “the cancer is spreading.”
In fact, more than three-quarters of Americans didn’t know that “hemorrhage” meant “bleeding,” according to a study by E.B. Learner, et al. More than one-third didn’t know that a fractured bone was broken.
If you want to reach your readers, use the words in your readers’ heads, not the words in your head.
Help them search.
Searchers use the wrong medical term 59% of the time when researching health issues on the web, according to a study by Alexa T. McCray, et al.
|Instead of …||… they’ll use|
|Multiple myeloma||Blood cancer|
|Myocardial infarction||Heart attack|
As a result, these searchers are missing lots of pages — maybe even yours — that include the information they seek.
The good news is, searchers use the same “wrong” word over and over again. So it is possible to translate from medical terms into reader terms.
Whether you’re in the medical, money-management or mobile home business, translate your industry’s language into your reader’s language. Because if you don’t use the words in your readers’ heads, they won’t be able to find you.
Translate into the readers’ language.
Solution: Use the language of the reader, not the language of the industry. These online medical dictionaries should help.
Sources: T.J. and Sandar Larkin, “Health on the Web: Finding the Right Word,” Larkin Page, No. 33, March 2006
E. Brooke Lerner, Dietrich V.K. Jehle, David M. Janicke and Ronald M. Moscati; “Medical Communication: Do our Patients Understand?” American Journal of Emergency Medicine, November 2000
Alexa T. McCray, Russell F. Loane, Allen C. Browne, Anantha K. Bangalore; “Terminology Issues in User Access to Web-based Medical Information,” Proceedings of the AMIA Symposium, 1999
Timothy B. Patrick, Harpreet K. Monga, MaryEllen C. Sievert, Joan ton Hall and Daniel R. Longo; “Evaluation of Controlled Vocabulary Resources for Development of a Consumer Entry Vocabulary for Diabetes,” Journal of Medical Internet Research, vol. 3, no. 3, 2001
Qing T. Zeng and Tony Tse, “Exploring and Developing Consumer Health Vocabularies,” Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan/Feb 2006, p. 24-29