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The New Language of Health Care: How’s Your HPIQ?

What do you call a person admitted to a hospital? If you said “patient,” you’re hopelessly out of date. The person lying there awaiting surgery or recovering from a heart attack is a “consumer.” The person examining the consumer is a “provider.” Depending on the situation, she may be a “hospitalist,” “intensivist,” “proceduralist,” “surgicalist,” or other “ist.” If you’re admitted at night, the provider is a “nocturnist.” Ordinary doctors, who don’t have “ists” after their titles, are seldom seen in hospitals these days.

That’s just one example of how health care language is changing. It’s not enough to know clinical terms; you have to know the lingo of health policy and practice to navigate though the health care system.

Here’s a little test of commonly used terms to determine your HPIQ (Health Policy Information Quotient). Match the term to the correct definition.

1. Medical home
a. a doctor’s office adjacent to a residence
b. a central medical office that coordinates care
c. the home of someone who needs oxygen, a wheelchair, and other equipment

2. Medically necessary
a. health care you think you need
b. health care your doctor says you need
c. health care your insurance company decides you need

3. Medication reconciliation
a. making sure the little red pill gets along with the big white one
b. making sure that you leave the hospital with prescriptions for all the medications you came in with and still need
c. making sure that the generic form of the medication is the same as the prescription form

a. a physician trained in Poland
b. Post Operative Long Stay
c. Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment
5. Custodial care
a. janitorial services in a hospital
b. health care in a prison
c. basic care like dressing and feeding

a. a federal law to protect the confidentiality of personal medical information
b. a new procedure for joint replacement
c. when repeated, a cheer when a troublesome consumer is discharged

7. Dual eligibles
a. consumers old enough for Medicare and poor enough for Medicaid
b. consumers who need both hips and knees replaced
c. consumers who see two specialists, both of whom get paid

8. Multimorbid
a. person with obsessive attraction to horror movies
b. person with several medical problems
c. person who is sad about several life events

9. P4P
a. a new drug
b. a method of paying providers on the basis of outcomes
c. a campaign that promotes provider-patient communication

10. Informal supports
a. grab bars and railings for the home
b. casual clothing for physical therapy
c. people who provide most long-term care–in other words, family members


Answers: 1 (b); 2 (c); 3 (b) 4 (c); 5 (c); 6 (a); 7 (a); 8 (b); 9 (b); 10 (c)


Scoring: 8-10 correct: PW (Policy Wonk); 5-7: NR (Needs Remediation); 0-4: HIC (Health Information Challenged)


Carol Levine directs the Families and Health Care Project at the United Hospital Fund in New York City.

Published on: August 1, 2008
Published in: Health Care Reform & Policy

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