The following four "jargon alerts" are found on Aetna's intranet. These alerts advise Aetna staff to use a different term or phrase in written and oral communications that is easier for the consumer to understand.

Help us expand this list for healthcare finance leaders trying to de-jargon their patient financial communications. What are some other healthcare finance or medical terms that are likely to confuse patients? Email the HFMA editor between March 28 and April 30, and we'll add your jargon words to this list. 

Noncompliant: Let's stop saying "noncompliant." It has a negative and judgmental tone. Instead, say "not following the treatment plan," "not taking the prescribed drugs," or something more specific and plain.

Preventative: Let's stop saying "preventative." Use "preventive" instead, as in preventive care or preventive medicine. Both terms are in the dictionary. Both mean the same thing. But "preventive" is the preferred term at Aetna. It's part of our corporate style.

Speaking in one, consistent voice is important, especially for a large company like Aetna. Even something that might seem little-like word choice-can help reinforce our brand and our messaging.

Telephonic: Let's get better at using plain language. Let's stop saying "telephonic," as in "telephonic office visit," "telephonic consultations," or "telephonic-based programs."

Instead, say "office visit by phone," "phone consultations," or "telephone counseling programs."

Utilize: "Utilize" may sound more sophisticated but it's not a synonym for "use." And it is not a word that is in line with the company's plain language mission. "Use" is so much more friendly, down to earth, and easy to understand.

"Utilize" means to use in a different way from its intended purpose. So you would "utilize" a straw as a tracheotomy tube. You could also "use" a straw as a tracheotomy tube. But you would never "utilize" that straw for your milkshake. You would "use" it to enjoy your drink.

Still not sure which word to use? It's simple. Use "use."

Source: Aetna. Reprinted with permission.

Return to related article: Aetna's Patient-Friendly Culture Shift 


Publication Date: Thursday, March 22, 2012