Health Communications from a Linguist’s Perspective

At the intersection of technology and innovation is improved healthcare communication.  Stanford Medicine X Conference, September 14-17, is an opportunity “to exchange bold new ideas about the future of medicine and the role technology will play in improving health.”  I’m proud to be participating in a panel discussion at Med X on Saturday, September 16.  My presentation explores the impact of social networks on interactions  between patients and their physicians as well as among patients and caregivers impacted by the same condition.

Current issues impacting medical decision-making and health communication

Among the issues that I’ll address are the barriers to communication that affect treatment decision-making.  For example, in one study of cancer patients, 29% reported not receiving enough information about cancer treatments, 48% reported problems in getting health information and 25% said they were not as involved in decisions  as they desired.1

Health Communications
The Internet is bridging this barrier.  Of the 86% of Americans who are currently Internet users, 72%2 say they have looked online for health information within the past year, and 40%3 say that information they found on social media affected the way they deal with their health.


Online social networks like Inspire are becoming important as sources of health information.  In a recent survey we conducted, 40% of respondents reported asking for or receiving health care-related advice.

Through Inspire’s communities, patients engage directly with other patients.  Their dialogues involve  open communication around health as it directly relates to quality of life.  As patients educate themselves and others, they become fluent in far more complex medical terminology than their doctors may realize. As one Inspire community member stated,

“The problem with the doctors? Some are practicing insurance and some really do not understand this disease. We need to educate our doctors! I am learning to speak their language and I am getting a glimmer of hope that they really do understand the complexities of this monster.”

My  presentation will explore how healthcare stakeholders, particularly doctors, can learn to speak the language of their patients.  I will also share practical recommendations on how to “listen like a linguist” in order to improve communication and outcomes.

I welcome any of you who are attending MedX to come to the panel:

Talk to Me: Communication and Decision-making

“Forget Medicalese: Helping HCPs Learn to Speak “Patient”

Sat Sep 16, 2017: 4:25 PM – 5:45 PM (LK 120)


For those who are not attending, please feel free to contact me for presentation slides at

Event info:

Stanford Medicine X will be held September 15th-17th 2017

Talk to Me: Communication and Decision-making

“Forget Medicalese: Helping HCPs Learn to Speak “Patient”

Sat Sep 16, 2017: 4:25 PM – 5:45 PM (LK 120)


Also at MedX on September 15, my colleague Dave Taylor, Senior Director of Research at Inspire is participating in the Everyone Included panel exploring a collaboration between ProPublica, Memorial Sloan Kettering and Inspire focused on driving awareness of the importance of the patient experience in healthcare.

Bio: As a health communications and medical marketing researcher, Kathryn Ticknor, Senior Research Manager at Inspire, draws on expertise in linguistic insights, ethnography, and human-centered design.  Motivated by her own family’s experience with chronic illness, she has focused her work on in-depth, disease-state specific research supporting partners across the healthcare space.

See our eBook “Experts by Experience 2017”

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Inspire offers a trusted community to patients and caregivers.  Our goal with this blog, this website and our content is to provide the life science industry access to the true, authentic patient voice.  In so doing, we support faithful operationalization of patient-centricity.  Take a look at our case studies, eBooks and news outlet coverage.


1 McInnes, D. Keith, et al. “Perceptions of cancer‐related information among cancer survivors: A report from the American Cancer Society’s Studies of Cancer Survivors.” Cancer 113.6 (2008): 1471-1479.

2 Pew Internet Research/ Health Fact Sheet

3 Referral MD/ Healthcare Social Media Statistics