Medical Terminology Frequently Asked Questions

Search Medical Terminology FAQsMedical terminology is used in various healthcare professions. To help guide you through what medical terminology really consists of, we decided to share some frequently asked questions.

What is Medical Terminology?

Medical terminology is the language and words used in the healthcare profession to communicate patient diagnosis, treatments, and diseases. Medical terms are composed of root words, suffixes, and prefixes.

Why is Medical Terminology Important in Healthcare?

Knowing medical terminology is essential for success in the healthcare industry, especially if you work with professionals such as doctors and nurses. Understanding medical terminology is key for those in clinical and non-clinical roles. It helps you to understand of what is being discussed and to read patient care charts. Medical terminology is also used in medical coding, billing and other administrative tasks.

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Which Medical Terminology Word Part Provides the General Meaning of the Word?

There are three basic parts of a word we focus on when teaching medical terminology: root word, suffix, and prefix. The root word provides the general meaning of the word. Many of these words were developed from Latin and Greek languages. Suffixes and prefixes are added to give the word more meaning.

What is a Word Root in Medical Terminology?

Word roots, or root words, in medical terminology are the base part of the word. Suffixes and prefixes are added to the root word to give it more meaning or modify its meaning. For example, you are probably familiar with the term tonsillitis, which is an inflammation of the tonsils. However, the root word tonsilla is a Latin word that refers to the tonsils.

What Does the Prefix Mean in Medical Terminology?

A prefix is added to the front of a root word to give it a more specific meaning. For example, the prefix ‘a’ usually negates the meaning of the root word. So, atypical means not typical. In medical terminology, a prefix usually refers to the location and intensity of a condition.

What is a Suffix in Medical Terminology?

A suffix is added to the end of a root word to modify the meaning. For example, the suffix -itis indicates inflammation. So, when placed with the prefix arthro- (joints), it becomes arthritis, an inflammation of the joints. In medical terminology, a suffix usually refers to a procedure, condition, or disease.

What is the Purpose of Combining Vowels?

Combining a vowel with a root word in medical terminology is a way to describe a specific condition or structure. Root words with vowels may also have prefixes or suffixes to clarify their meaning further.

Why is Proper Spelling of Medical Terminology in Health-Related Professions Important?

Correct spelling of medical terminology by healthcare professionals is critical to patient treatment and diagnosis. There are hundreds of medical words that professionals use to specify conditions, diseases, medications, and more. A spelling error of a term could have serious and long-lasting implications on patient care. For example, an incorrect spelling of a drug could result in the patient receiving an incorrect prescription for the wrong medication.

How Can I Get a Medical Terminology Certificate?

Anyone can learn medical terminology with a self-paced, online course like the one offered by Corexcel. At the end of the course, you can earn a certificate of completion to prove you’ve mastered medical terminology. With engaging and interactive exercises, you’ll learn word roots and how to use prefixes, suffixes, and combining vowels to construct more complex medical terms.

Looking for frequently asked questions related to Corexcel’s Medical Terminology Course? Visit the Course FAQs page.

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Tips for Creating Your Own Medical Terminology Flashcards

Medical terminology is a valuable tool for those in the healthcare industry. It promotes communication about parts, functions, and conditions of patients’ bodiesMedical Terminology Flash Cards. Understanding the language that most nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals use helps clinical and non-clinical employees with documentation, billing, reporting, and daily communication. By no means do you have to be a medical professional to learn the terminology. Gaining an understanding of the terms can offer you more insight into your health and well-being.

Become a Medical Terminology Master Today

Learning new words can be a challenge. However, using flashcards is an excellent way to become a medical terminology master. Using flashcards to study medical terminology uses active recall, one of the most effective ways to learn. Here are some other ways that you can boost your knowledge of medical terms using flashcards.

How Can I Make My Own Medical Terminology Flashcards?

Creating your own medical term flashcards is pretty simple. Here are some tips on how to make medical terminology flash cards to help you get the most out of this study tool!

Group Flash Cards Together

Making different groups for your medical terms can help speed along your studies. Divide your flashcards into prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms. When you add words to your collection, you can divide them into their proper group. You may also want to divide the combining word cards into different body systems or chapters you are studying. This can improve your ability to memorize the terms. Another tip to consider is using different colors for terms that are related.

Avoid Too Much Information

Try to be as concise as possible when writing your flashcards. Too much information can overwhelm you and may hinder your ability to learn the terms. When you use too much detail on your flashcards, you’ll run into the problem of recognition rather than recall. Recognizing the answer is not the same as being able to recall the word’s meaning when you hear it.

Use Pictures

One great way to help you learn medical terminology faster with flashcards is to use pictures and words together. Our brains are designed to remember imagery or visual cues much quicker than words. Pairing words and pictures together makes a powerful study tool to learn medical terms. Rather than using images you think should go with the words, the pictures you use on the cards should make sense to your brain.

Say the Words

When studying medical terminology using flashcards, it is beneficial to say the word out loud as you read it. By speaking the word out loud, you’re reinforcing to your brain what the word means and how to say it.

Use Both Sides

When reviewing your knowledge with flashcards, use both sides of the cards. Testing your understanding using both the word and definition sides can build strong neural pathways that increase your mastery of the medical terms.

Developing an aptitude for medical terminology is essential for those in the medical field. The ability to communicate with co-workers and other professionals that you come into contact with on a daily basis will increase your efficiency and performance during work.

Where Can I Learn Medical Terminology Online?

After taking the Corexcel medical terminology course, you won’t need to refer to your textbook constantly, and you’ll no longer be confused or overwhelmed by all the medical jargon around you. Additionally, the Corexcel course allows you to move at your own pace. No more waiting for instructors to return your exams or listening to lectures that get off topic. Now you can streamline your study time and advance when you are ready.

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Why is Learning Medical Terminology Important?

Importance of Medical TerminologyProspective students sometimes ask why learning Medical Terminology is important. Depending on the type of career you choose to pursue, having the ability to recognize and decipher complex medical terms can be a game changer. We often think of the obvious examples such as doctors, nurses, physician assistants and medical billing specialists to name a few. However, you might be surprised to learn how many other careers require a working knowledge of medical terminology.

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Medical Terms Make it Easier to Communicate Across the Healthcare Industry

Healthcare is an $800 billion market growing at 7.3% annually. Healthcare and social assistance is the largest employment segment in the U.S. employing 20 million+ people. Medical Terminology is important to healthcare professionals who work directly with patients but there are also support positions that require knowledge of the subject.

For instance, let’s think about the average family practice with 4-5 doctors and 8-10 nurses. In addition to the professionals mentioned above, these practices would typically employ medical billing and coding specialists. The responsibility for generating billing documents falls upon these employees. An understanding of medical terms helps ensure billing codes are accurate which results in more timely payments for the practice. It also allows the practice to receive the maximum payment possible for a particular service. Since payment delays are often a result of improper codes, it’s important for these professionals to understand the terminology they work with on a regular basis.

Documentation Becomes Much More Simple

After the medical billing department sends bills out for payment, an employee from the health insurance company reviews the incoming bills for accuracy and entry into their accounting system. Without understanding medical terminology, it would be difficult for these professionals to perform their responsibilities effectively. This knowledge helps people in these industries work more efficiently and effectively. Medical Terminology is a common language used to communicate complex medical data between health professionals, patients and many others.

Medical Terminology Plays an Important Role in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Let’s take a look at another industry. After the last year, we’ve all heard or read about the COVID-19 clinical trials performed by Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Before a drug, or vaccine is approved, it must be submitted to a rigorous clinical trial. The pharmaceutical industry regularly recruits patients into their studies. Employees tasked with qualifying patients for the trial, creating intake materials and developing trial notifications need to have a basic knowledge of medical terms to communicate the various aspects of the clinical trial.

In addition to the recruiting professionals, pharmaceutical companies also employ Clinical Data Analysts. These highly skilled professionals are responsible for verifying the data gathered during the trial period as well as reporting on the results of the clinical trials. They’re required to write reports that use terminology to communicate disease states, patient conditions, adverse events and more.

Knowing the Right Terms Keeps Everyone on the Same Page

Analysts use computer software to record and report clinical trial results which brings us to our next profession. It can be quite appealing for a programmer or front-end developer to have completed an accredited online medical terminology course. Knowledge of the subject helps employees communicate with each other effectively which helps to keep everyone focused on the same goals. Clinical Data Analysts will use the software developed by these programmers to submit reports to the FDA in the United States for drug approval and other milestones throughout the lifespan of the drug.

At the FDA you will find doctors, scientists and other health professionals who all need a working knowledge of medical terminology. Imagine how difficult it would be to read incoming reports without knowledge of medical terms. It would be virtually impossible, or at least extremely time consuming, to decipher reports and make informed decisions.

Once approval is granted a drug is ready for market. Most of the time that involves pharmaceutical sales representatives visiting doctors to promote the new drug. It’s imperative for sales representatives to be able to speak the doctor’s language. Without prior knowledge of medical terminology, the sales representative would not have the skills to discuss the target diseases that a drug is designed to address or the body systems it is intended to affect.

When a doctor prescribes a medication, they rely on a pharmacist to fill the prescription. From the pharmacist at your local Walgreens or CVS to the pharmacy assistants, it’s important that they all understand the patient’s medical conditions and the prescriptions they’re filling to recognize potential interactions before they occur.

Working in A Pharmacy

Occasionally the pharmacist will have to call the patient’s health insurance company to confirm information. They are expecting to reach an insurance professional who has knowledge of the drugs, diseases and side effects associated with the drug(s) being prescribed. All of these touch on medical terminology in some shape or form.

Learn Medical Terminology From Our Online Class

While the pharmaceutical industry provides us with several solid examples of professions where medical terminology is used, it does not end there. Every day we receive course requests from paramedics, court reporters and even tattoo artists. If a career in healthcare is something that interests you, consider an online course covering medical terms to boost your resume or meet a prerequisite. If you have any questions about how taking an online course can help you, feel free to reach out to us.

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How Medical Terminology Helps Your Career in Medical Claims

The American healthcare industry is growing exponentially, and a medical terminology course can help assure your success working within this world. The expansion of this industry is creating jobs that are increasingly specific to particular facets of the medical process. As a medical claims specialist, your area of involvement exists within the ever-essential conduit of money flow from one entity to another. You are tasked with mediating between providers and insurance companies concerning payment for medical goods and services rendered to policyholders. This area relies heavily on terminology to explain organs, bones, bodily systems, symptoms, conditions, diagnoses, procedures, prognoses and prescriptions in order to describe medical situations.

Just as people in the legal world speak legalese, accountants speak numbers and software programmers speak HTML code, your profession demands that you possess detailed understanding of the vocabulary of medicine. This subset of the English language contains elements of the everyday vernacular interspersed with archaic Latin and Greek words, lengthy polysyllabic terms and ambiguous abbreviations. A medical terminology course can equip you to excel in this arena by preventing miscommunication, ensuring clerical accuracy and enabling efficiency.

A Comprehensive Medical Terminology Course

An online medical terminology course allows you to learn and progress at your own pace as your schedule allows. Once enrolled, you will have access to a series of instructional modules for one full year. These chapters are designed to introduce you to the essentials of anatomy and physiology and the various systems within the human body. After a general introduction to medical terminology, you will delve into a section on the human body in health and disease which will demonstrate the physical effects of inflammation and trauma. Each chapter will cover specific systems within the body including:

  • Skeletal system
  • Muscular system
  • Cardiovascular system
  • Lymphatic and immune systems
  • Respiratory system
  • Digestive system
  • Urinary system
  • Endocrine system
  • Reproductive system
  • Nervous system

You will then learn about the sensory intricacies of the eyes and ears as well as the integumentary system of the skin. Finally, a module on diagnostic procedures and pharmacology will familiarize you with terminology concerning specific conditions and ailments and the various medicines prescribed to treat them.

Benefit from Interactive Learning

Online Medical Terminology CourseHaving online access to a medical terminology course means learning through the audio and visual aspects of the training modules. Material is reinforced through interactive review exercises. Challenging medical terms can be mastered by a playback feature that allows you to hear the correct pronunciation of uncommon words as many times as necessary. Tests are given to assess your progress as you move through the material, and answers to quiz questions are accompanied by detailed explanations for future reference. A wide variety of games designed to enhance your learning experience are also a part of this course, accompanied by case studies, multimedia animations and a glossary of terms and definitions. A dynamic array of teaching methods assure that the detail-heavy nature of the material is presented in engaging, interactive formats that encourage learning through audio playback and colorful infographics.

Excel Through Effective Communication

The Medical Terminology for Health Professions course is designed to prepare you to successfully communicate with other health professionals by enabling you to understand the meaning of medical terms, root words, prefixes and suffixes. Your ability to recognize basic medical terms will allow you to process medical claims in an efficient manner without having to continually search for the definitions of medical diagnoses, procedures and conditions. Medical abbreviations are frequently used in all aspects of the industry, and learning how to decipher them through this course will let you experience the benefits of efficient correspondence rather than the hindrances of miscommunication. You will learn to spell and pronounce essential medical words and terms that, while uncommon in everyday language, are used daily in the medical world.

Equip Yourself with Analytical Tools

There are thousands of words that are specific to the medical world, and while this course in medical terminology teaches you the fundamental vocabulary, it also teaches the skill to decipher advanced terminology through deductive analysis. You will learn medical root words, prefixes and suffixes so that you can dissect unfamiliar terms and extract their meaning by understanding specific parts of the words. For example, the suffix “itis” indicates inflammation of a specific part of the body, while the term “ectomy” means the removal of a certain part of the body. The differences between tonsillitis and a tonsillectomy, while involving the same body part, are quite significant — and will mean very different ways in which a medical claim is transcribed. Meanwhile, the word “operative” means a surgical operation, yet when it is paired with a variety of prefixes, it’s can change significantly. This course will allow you to know that the prefixes “pre,” “peri” and “post” — when paired with the word operative mean either before a surgery, before and after a surgery, or only after a surgery, respectively.

Certify Your Knowledge and Earn College Credit

Your one-year access to this online medical terminology course allows you to learn at your own pace and awards you a “passing” status with a 70% average on module tests and a short overall course evaluation. Upon completion you will earn 9.5 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) authorized by the International Accreditors for Continuing Education and Training. Your certificate of completion allows you to demonstrate to recruiters and future coworkers that you are serious about a career in medical claims, and that you took the necessary steps to educate yourself so that you can effectively communicate in the language of medicine. You can submit the details of the course to your institution before enrolling to ensure CEUs will be accepted and applied.

Contact Corexcel to enroll in our online medical terminology course and begin your education in the vast vocabulary of the world of medicine. Understanding this language will empower you to excel as a medical claims specialist.

How Medical Terminology Can Prevent Miscommunication?

At times, the world of medicine can be affected by miscommunication, which in turn has proven to be detrimental to some patients and even fatal to others. This problem is propagated by way of poorly inscribed and mistakenly interpreted medical abbreviations that lead to misdiagnoses, inaccurate prescriptions and incorrect administration of medical dosages.

Because the expanding world of medicine has become very compartmentalized with new fields of study and specialization, many of the abbreviations and acronyms do not translate from one field to another, from one department to another and from one practitioner to another.

The Corexcel Online Medical Terminology Course is designed to update those currently active in a medical vocation and to prepare future medical professionals to use medical terminology correctly and to be aware of the top abbreviations that are misused — the exact acronyms and abbreviations that, when misused, result in negative outcomes.

The Usual Suspects

In 2004, The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety issued a “Do Not Use” list comprised of the most commonly miswritten and misinterpreted medical abbreviations. At the top of this docket sits the letter “U” which is commonly used to represent “units” yet is frequently mistaken for the number “0.”

An example: In the instance of a doctor prescribing “10U” meaning that the patient should take 10 units per medication interval, the typical misreading would be “100.” This would put the patient in danger of taking a dose that is tenfold the prescribed amount. In the instance of a highly toxic painkiller such as Vicodin or Oxycodone, the results could be lethal.

An Increase in Oversight

As benign as it may seem at face value, unreadable abbreviations and misused acronyms can result in unfortunate outcomes. According to The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, it is estimated that clerical medication errors account for some 7,000 deaths per year, 81% of the mistakes occurring during the prescribing stage of the medical process.

The source above also reports that doctors are responsible for 78.5% of abbreviation errors, with nurses sharing 15.1% of the burden while a mere 6.4% of inaccuracies were penned by pharmaceutical or other staff.

Since doctors have been typecast as scrawlers of hieroglyphics, it may seem that only the most seasoned of nurses can translate. Although these miscommunications are often not the fault of the caregiver, there are cases wherein a fairly routine medical procedure became an emergency situation due to misread abbreviations or poor penmanship. Here are three such instances:

• A doctor prescribed a hydromorphone epidural for a patient, writing the script as “2 µg/mL.” It was then misunderstood by the pharmacist who labeled and prepared the patient’s prescription as “2 mg/mL.” The pattern continued with the attending nurse, who misread the label and subsequently administered a dose with a 1,000-fold variance.

The patient soon experienced difficulty breathing, was intubated and placed on mechanical ventilation along with being given additional pharmacology and chest compressions to mitigate a diminishing cardiac function. The epidural was removed and naloxone was used to reverse the toxic effects.

• An acyclovir treatment was ordered for a 62-year-old patient on hemodialysis. The order read “acyclovir (unknown dose) with HD.” The practitioner who read the order interpreted the “HD” abbreviation as TID — meaning three times daily.

Acyclovir is given intravenously, and then only once daily after hemodialysis taking into consideration the patient’s renal impairment immediately after dialysis. In this case, the patient received three doses over a two-day stretch, resulting in mental deterioration and subsequent death.

• Mid-sternal chest pain in a 53-year-old patient was diagnosed as a gastrointestinal malady. As a result of this assessment, an “MDX/GI” cocktail was prescribed — which is a compound consisting of Xylocaine® (lidocaine), Mylanta® (aluminum hydroxide, magnesium hydroxide, and simethicone) and diclomine.

The patient developed labored breathing followed by respiratory distress, requiring an administration of epinephrine to reverse the symptoms. Although the patient’s allergy to lidocaine was documented, the attending physician and nursing staff were unaware that lidocaine is a key ingredient in the MDX/GI cocktail.

The danger of this abbreviation lies in its ambiguity. Although the “X” stands for lidocaine, it refers to the brand name of the drug (Xylocaine®) rather than the drug itself. Furthermore, the symbol “X” as an abbreviation has nearly a dozen different meanings in the medical vernacular.*

No matter the outcome, each case strongly supports the critical need for an ongoing education in medical terminology and a system that strives toward consistency in usage of medical abbreviations.

Not-so-straightforward solutions

Consider the remaining 6,997 cases involving similar situations that were propagated by abbreviations that were either misinterpreted or poorly written. The obvious solution would seem to be to discourage the use of the medical terms most frequently responsible for patient harm, yet doing so in a cohesive way across the breadth of all medical professions has proven to be very difficult.

Because not all practitioners have or are required to comply with a universal set of guidelines where medical abbreviations are concerned, the responsibility by default in affecting clear communication, then falls upon the shoulders of the individual medical practitioner.

Corexcel’s Online Medical Terminology Course empowers aspiring and practicing medical professionals to take control of their role in the chain of communication, be it as an attending physician, nurse, pharmacist or other vocation within the medical community.

Supporting Medical Professionals and Patient Safety

In the wake of rapid medical advancement, diversification of specialties and development of new fields of study, medical professionals can equip themselves with a comprehensive understanding of terminology, abbreviations and the most commonly miswritten and misinterpreted of both. By doing so, the results of poor communication can be diminished.

If you’re looking to strengthen and improve your communication in the medical field, contact Corexcel to learn more about our online medical terminology course. The more you learn about using and identifying the proper medical terms, the more effective and accurate you will be in preventing harm on future patients.

 

*Brunetti, Luigi, John P. Santell, and Rodney W. Hicks. “The Impact of Abbreviations on Patient Safey.” The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety 33.9 (2007): 576-80. Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. Sept.-Oct. 2007. Web. May 2017.