Just Say No to -nosis

Alt: One doodle with dog leg says to another doodle, “My physician diagnosed jargon mouth — and a canine protuberance on my lower appendage.” The other doodle says, “Sounds rough! But what’d she say about that dog on your leg?”

Google “diagnosis and prognosis” and you’ll find a whole bunch of webpages devoted to explaining the difference between these 2 words. And the difference is clear — diagnosis is what you have, and prognosis is how it will probably play out.

So why all the confusion, dear readers? Most of us only hear these words in a medical context. And that context may be scary! When someone’s getting a stressful health update, it’s no time to make them parse medical speak.

That’s why we say avoid the diagnosis-prognosis confusion altogether and skip ’em both.

For diagnosis, just tell people what they have.

  • Instead of: He was diagnosed with jargon mouth disorder.
  • Try: He found out he has type 2 jargon mouth.
  • Instead of: Your diagnosis is dog leg.
  • Try: You definitely have dog leg. Anyone can see there’s a dog stuck to your leg.

For prognosis, just tell people what to expect.

  • Instead of: Here’s your prognosis for your chronic jargon mouth.
  • Try: Here’s what may happen next with your jargon mouth if you don’t change your arcane ways.
  • Instead of: The prognosis for people with dog leg is very good.
  • Try: Your life with dog leg won’t be so bad — you’ll always have a friend, and your left calf will never get cold.

(Okay, so maybe don’t use those exact words — but you get the idea.)

The bottom line: The “prognosis” for “diagnosis” is confusion — so just tell people exactly what they need to know.

Tweet: Would you rather get a prognosis for your diagnosis, or learn what to expect from your health condition? @CommunicateHlth takes a guess: https://bit.ly/2jXeiFA


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