What We're Reading: Language of Medicine; Uninsured Number Grows; 3D Mammograms

The language used by doctors contributes to why patients don't understand what they are told; the number of American adults without health insurance grew 1.3 percentage points from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017; women are increasingly faced with the decision between 2D and 3D mammograms.

Understanding the Doctor

There are a number of reasons why patients have trouble understanding what the doctor tells them, but one of the biggest culprits is the language used. According to The Washington Post, while patient education, health literacy, and cultural differences all factor in, the bigger problem is that the language of medicine can obscure the plain meaning of words. Doctors tend to use layers of equivocation, which can hamper communication with patients. The result? Patients return home from an appointment and cannot explain to a loved one what the doctor said.

Number of Uninsured Americans Rises

From the end of 2016 to the end of 2017, the number of American adults without health insurance grew from 10.9% to 12.2%. The 1.3-percentage-point increase may be modest, but it represents the first increase since 2008, according to Los Angeles Times. The populations for whom the decline in coverage was largest were young adults, blacks, Latinos, and households with incomes less than $36,000 a year. It is not clear whether media coverage of repeal and replace efforts contributed to the decline in coverage as people questioned whether the government would enforce the penalty for not having insurance.

3D or 2D Mammograms?

Women are increasingly facing the decision between a 2D or 3D mammography; both tests use the same X-ray technology, but 3D tests are more expensive. Kaiser Health News reported that it remains unclear if the 3D test is any better at identifying advanced, lethal cancers. An ongoing 5-year clinical trial will compare the 2 types of mammograms to evaluate if the 3D test reduces the risk that a woman will develop a life-threatening cancer. Currently, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends biennial mammograms for women between the ages of 50 and 74, but it has not yet recommended 3D mammograms because of a lack of evidence.

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