I was sitting in my beach chair on vacation soaking up the sun when I overheard the couple next to me sounding concerned. They were throwing out lots of big medical terms but were very confused and said that they did not understand anything that they read on this MRI report. I turned to them, apologized for eavesdropping, and introduced myself as a physician. I offered to “translate” what the radiologist report said, and they gladly accepted.
Their problem was not a lack of information. They had access to the patient portal and were able to download the MRI report and the physician’s notes. All this information was written in medical terms, acronyms, and shorthand with a few words in Latin and Greek sprinkled in. What they lacked was clarity and understanding.
So, I sat there on the beach and translated the report into layman’s terms. The family was grateful, and I was happy to help ease their minds. This was not what I had planned to do on this beautiful day at the beach, but it was rewarding to be able to use my knowledge and skills to help them get some clarity. However, it was disheartening that they had to rely on help from a stranger who happened to overhear their discussion about arteriovenous fistula.
The medical record is written by doctors to communicate to other doctors and is full of terms and jargon that are not used by most people. Having access to this information is good, but when taken out of context or the relationship of a visit with a physician, information can cause more confusion and unnecessary anxiety.
To quote Takeda Shingen, “Knowledge is not power, it is only potential. Applying that knowledge is power. Understanding why and when to apply that knowledge is wisdom!” Years of medical school, residency, and continuing medical education help doctors gain knowledge, understanding, and hopefully, the wisdom to communicate effectively with our patients.
A worthy health care team welcomes and encourages questions, eager to give you the best information possible. We want you to know what is going on with your health, and to fully understand what all the labs and tests mean.
If you ever feel like this family on the beach, my recommendation is to contact your physician or health care provider and ask for more time to discuss your health status. Doctors on the beach everywhere will thank you, as we relax and enjoy our time with our family knowing that your family is well taken care of.
Jill Kruse, D.O. is part of The Prairie Doc® team of physicians and currently practices family medicine in Brookings, South Dakota. For free and easy access to the entire Prairie Doc® library, visit www.prairiedoc.org and follow Prairie Doc® on Facebook featuring On Call with the Prairie Doc® a medical Q&A show streaming on Facebook most Thursdays at 7 p.m. central.