Understand These Terms to Better Understand Your Healthcare

Patient & Caregiver Resources

Healthcare can be confusing. When you add in all the medical jargon and acronyms, it can be difficult to decipher. But you don’t need a degree to understand some of the common healthcare terms. We’re here to help.

The following are some of commonly misunderstood medical terms simplified for you. By understanding these you can take control of your health and feel more confident and informed when the time comes that you or your loved one are faced with a medical emergency.

Healthcare Terms

Acute – A sudden onset of a medical condition

Acute care – A setting of care for treatment of short-term needs, such as a hospital or urgent care facility

ADLsActivities of Daily Living such as grooming, dressing and personal hygiene

Ambulation – The act of walking

Aspiration – The breathing in of a foreign object, such as food or liquids, into the lungs

Chronic – A condition or illness that lasts or reoccurs over time

CMS – Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services

Comorbidity – additional medical conditions that are not the primary reason for treatment

Continence – The ability to control the bladder and bowels

CVACerebrovascular Accident, commonly called a “stroke”

DVT – Deep Vein Thrombosis is a blood clot occurs deep within the veins

DysphagiaDifficulty swallowing and moving food and liquids from the mouth to the stomach

Glucose – A simple sugar often a component of carbohydrates that serves as an energy source

HDL – High-Density Lipoprotein, also known as “good” cholesterol

Hypertension – Also known as high blood pressure, is when the pressure of blood flow is too high, causing the heart to work harder

Hypotension – Also known as low blood pressure, is when the pressure of blood flow is too low

Incontinence – The inability to control the bladder and bowels

Inpatient – A setting where a patient stays overnight at the hospital or facility while receiving treatment and recovering

LDL – Low-Density Lipoprotein, also known as the “bad” cholesterol, forms plaque in the blood vessels, which can lead to health concerns such as heart attack and stroke

Left neglect – A deficit or impairment in awareness of the left side of the body caused by an injury or condition in the right side of the brain

Length of stay – The time a patient stays in a setting of care

LPN – Licensed Nurse Practitioner

Morbid obesity – Having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater or weighing 80 to 100 pounds over normal weight

Myocardial infarction – The medical term for a heart attack

Outpatient – When a patient receives treatment, but is not admitted to the hospital or facility

OT – Occupational Therapist

PCP – Primary Care Physician

Prognosis – The likely course or progression of a disease or condition

Premorbid – Occurring or existing before the onset of a disease or illness

Post-acute care – A setting of care where patients receive care after or in lieu of an acute care stay, such as inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, home health and skilled nursing facilities

PT – Physical Therapist

Readmission – When a patient returns to the hospital after a prior stay within 30 days

RN – Registered Nurse

SLP – Speech Language Pathologist, or speech therapist

Sliding scale insulin – The sliding scale takes into account that glucose levels can vary before and after meals, so the dose of insulin is adjusted accordingly

Spasticity – Abnormal muscle tone that prevents normal movement

Transfers – Movement of a patient from one surface to another, such transitioning from the bed to a wheelchair

TIA – Transient Ischemic Attack, also known as a mini-stroke, is a brief interruption of blood flow to the brain or spinal cord, which causes temporary symptoms similar to a stroke