First, Do No Harm– To the English Tongue


American global supremacy, following British global supremacy, is not the only reason that English is spoken around the world. It happens to be a tongue that, even without the grammatical elaborations of Latin, German and Russian, is able to convey detail and nuance. But many in health care seem to be doing their best to ruin that reputation.

Payor. What nitwit came up with this? What’s wrong with payer, a spelling that is actually in my dictionary? Payor is creeping into new editions, because people are using it through (not thru) ignorance, but a dictionary only reports how people use words; it is not a guide to good usage.

Disease state management. I was gratified that Alan Hillman, M.D., (page 75) also considers this a term that may have meaning for speaker and listener, but not necessarily the same meaning. The same goes for plenty of other terms, including “quality,” as you’ll read in the cover story, starting on page 30.

Cap. Capitate is too long to say, huh? We can devise all sorts of wordy Latinate expressions to make us sound erudite, but capitate is too long? Sorry, but cap–from the same root as capitation (which before we got hold of it meant “collecting a head tax”)–means a maximum, an upper limit. If I say I “capped” their reimbursement,” two meanings are possible.

Reimburse. Physicians, though they are concerned with income, don’t like to be perceived as interested. They are paid, but rarely reimbursed (paid back). Even “compensated” has that tinge of paying back. Please, let’s not beat around the bush.

All of this pales next to adspeak. I heard from “a specialty teleservice bureau that provides interactive customer communications,” which are “customized telemarketing and database management solutions for health care and pharmaceutical companies.”

Life would be easier if we could just go out and buy solutions. I’ll take a solution to mid-life crisis, please.

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