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Want Real Transparency in Health Care? Start Using Plain English


Doctors in England have been told to ditch Latin and use 'plain English'

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has a mandate to increase transparency and accountability of its member doctors. But there are Inherent difficulties when a self-regulating profession sets its own policies and reports to itself (we acknowledge the CPSO is accountable to the Ministry, but certainly not on a daily basis). 

Who is in the best position to monitor our health care system and the performance of its doctors? Who can and should raise questions when needed? College staff? Other bureaucrats? Or, should patients play an active role in that process?

As reported by the BBC, doctors are being told to adopt a new policy of writing letters that are easier for patients to understand. The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges says too often correspondence contains complex medical jargon rather than plain and simple English.

The stated goal of the policy change is to provide more opportunity for patients to become active in their health care, to improve their individual health outcomes. However, a second outcome is that doctors will have to be more transparent in their dealings with patients. We think that is a good move.

It is time for all professionals (lawyers included) to stop hiding behind complex jargon and keep it simple! Patients will benefit. The medical system will benefit. And ultimately, doctors will benefit by becoming even better practicing their profession.