You say tomato, I say tomahto and to most of us it wouldn't make any difference, but when it comes to the language of medicine getting it right is vital.
Authored by two Queensland University of Technology academics, Australia's first medical terminology textbook was launched this week and aims to advance the understanding of medical terms.
Sue Walker and Jenny Nicol, from QUT's School of Public Health, have spent two years turning the American spelling, terminology, descriptions and definitions of a medical text into Australian style.
The Language of Medicine is specifically aimed at the Australian and New Zealand health sector but is suitable for any country that uses British spelling conventions.
"The book has been completely updated to suit Australia and is aimed at allied health and medical professionals, as well as anybody who needs to have understanding of medical terminology," Ms Nicol said.
"All spelling has been changed from American to Australian style and descriptions have been modified to illustrate clinical practice in Australia and New Zealand. Drug names now reflect the terminology used in Australia."
Ms Nicol said there were many critical differences between American and Australian medical terminology.
"For example epinephrine is widely referred to as adrenaline outside of the United States. In Australia we call it adrenaline, so you can imagine the problems that can arise when people are trying to understand the different medical terms," she said.
Mrs Walker said the text provided practical applications of medical terminology through case studies, actual medical records and discharge summaries.
"All terms, definitions and clinical information have been reviewed and rewritten as necessary to match Australian health system practices with inappropriate terminology removed," she said.
"It is also possible for readers to work out the meanings of words by their spelling and the way the words are made up of prefixes, suffixes and word roots.
"For example gastroenterology can be broken up into gastr- meaning stomach, enter- meaning intestines, -logy meaning study of ... so the whole word refers to the study of the stomach and intestines."
Mrs Walker said the community had been calling out for an Australian version of a medical terminology text book, and The Language of Medicine would meet this demand.
"It demystifies the medical language. It will help health professionals communicate more effectively with other health professionals, clinical students better understand medical terms, and medical reports and correspondence be more accurately transcribed and understood," she said.
Jenny Nicol is a QUT lecturer in health information management and Sue Walker is the associate director of QUT's National Centre for Classification in Health. The Language of Medicine is available at bookstores and also online at www.elsevier.com.au
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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