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The Power of Language – Transforming the Health Care Industry for Consumers

Have you ever experienced sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia?

Or diaphragmatic flutter? What about borborgymi? You have. We all have.

These are the official medical terms for an ice cream headache, hiccup, and getting dizzy from standing up, respectively. If we all know these occurrences by their common name, why do they need fancy medical terms? Are there other terms in health care that consumers don’t understand, thus leaving them out of the conversation?

It seems that health care language is not created with consumers in mind. Instead of welcoming patients into the conversation, language used isn’t understandable, relatable, and often sends heads spinning, like a borborgymi.

If we want to move to a more consumer-driven model, the way that the health care industry communicates with consumers needs to change. Whether it’s a doctor talking about treatment options, a health insurance representative explaining coverage, a hospital providing cost estimates, or even a health care spending account administrator - like Further - providing educational materials. These are all conversations that consumers should come away from feeling empowered, not confused.

simplifying health care language makes consumers more confident

What if instead of medial tibial stress syndrome, we just called it what it is – shin splints. With everyday language, consumers are empowered to be confident when talking with their doctors and recognize that it is okay to explore alternative treatment recommendations.

We are in a time where health care isn’t speaking to the consumer. As open enrollment season fast approaches, benefits managers may find themselves pulling teeth - or cuspids extraction - to make sure that employees sign up for coverage by the deadline.

But given the ambiguity in the health care industry, employees may not feel empowered to make confident decisions regarding their health care needs, because they don’t have the tools to become fully engaged consumers. Which insurance is best for me? How much should I be putting in my health savings account (HSA)? How do I find the right care at the right time? Why does the cost of this treatment vary by thousands of dollars at different clinics?

Instead, let’s just call aphthouse stomatitis what it is – canker sore. We encourage benefits managers to continue to educate consumers on an ongoing basis. When the conversation becomes more mainstream, consumers will engage in new ways.

An empowered consumer will have the tools and resources to ask their doctor about alternate treatment options. They will have the power to ask for cost estimates up front and the tools to inquire about pricing at other medical facilities. They will recognize that they are a key part of the health care industry and that they have been left out of the conversation for far too long.

Health care decision support tools like Pick Your Price, HSA contribution calculator, and even a simple glossary of terms empower consumers to own their health care journey. With one conversation changed and one new resource offered, each step of the way consumers can begin to lead their health care journeys and find the right care at the right time.

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