Verbiage and the Patient Encounter


What you say and how you say it has a big effect on the outcome of your encounter with your patients. Therefore it’s important to train your staff to use certain phrases instead of others.

For example, rather than saying, “the doctor is busy,” say “The doctor is with another patient.” “The price is” would be better stated as “the fee is.”

The words “reception area” are much more positive than “waiting room.” Waiting room immediately gives the connotation of waiting a long time, where reception is a greeting. In this case, it’s not just what you mean, but your patient’s interpretation.

Instead of “the doctor is on vacation,” you may try a more positive verbiage of “the doctor is out of the office.” “Image” is a more appropriate term than “picture” when discussing x-rays and films. “Medication” should be used instead of “drug” while “procedure” is an alternative to “surgery or operation.”

Make a list of phrases in your practice that employees should use and place it discreetly at various desks (where patients can not see). Refer to it often and add to the list as you hear phrases that might be expressed in more positive ways.

The meaning is often the same, although the verbiage is expressed in a better, more positive manner. Share great verbiage with me at

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