Controlled vocabularies for consumer health

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There is often a disconnect between the language that consumers use to express health concerns and the language that is used by health care professionals. At the same time, health care consumerism and the availability of vast health-related resources on the Internet have resulted in millions of persons using the Internet for health-related matters daily. The mismatch in language, however, poses a barrier to access to relevant information. It also prevents full participation in shared health records, and sometimes interferes in communication between patients and their health care providers. Nurse informaticians, with their deep expertise in vocabulary development, could play an important role in solving this dilemma. Structured vocabularies comprised of lay terms, with definitions, variant spellings, and regional dialects, along with mappings to equivalent or related professional terms, could make health literature much more accessible to consumers, and provide the basis for bi-directional translation of health terms in a shared medical record. In addition, the presence of terms for which no representation currently exists in nursing terminologies could serve as a stimulus for developing new knowledge about patient phenomena not previously recognized. © 2003 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.




Zielstorff, R. D. (2003). Controlled vocabularies for consumer health. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 36(4–5), 326–333.

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