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March 13, 2013

Language in Medical Documentation—Reply

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Jody W. Zylke, MD, Senior Editor.

Author Affiliation: Department of Pediatrics, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California (

JAMA. 2013;309(10):983-984. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.1010

In Reply: I agree with Mssrs Dittmar and Weller that there is a trade-off between medical jargon and vernacular language. All professions develop their own language out of necessity to communicate with colleagues quickly and to protect themselves from outsiders. It may not always be possible to make concepts more understandable for patients without sacrificing brevity or specificity. However, I disagree that clinicians are the only target audience of documentation in the electronic era, given that many health care institutions are making tethered personalized health records available to their patients. I mentioned in the article that to make any terminology accurate and appropriate for communication, “[p]erhaps it is time for medical scholars to work with consumers to define the most helpful terms for patients and families.”

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