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Basic Medical Terminology is the Health Care …

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Dealing with the vast array of medical procedures and terminology can be daunting. A number of resources are available for working interpreters who are either actively involved or interested in medical interpreting. One of the most comprehensive is Tamara Moxham’s 2005 book, Deaf Patients, Hearing Medical Personnel: Interpreting and Other Considerations. The book is intended and written for interpreters, Deaf consumers and their families, and medical staff and administrators, and covers protocol for hiring interpreters, including Deaf interpreters; HIPAA; interpreter roles; emergency coverage; ethics; medical context and culture; and specific types of medical scenarios.

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Looking for information on how to decipher common Health Insurance terms and definitions
Here, you'll find plain-English definitions for 33 of the most common insurance terms. We think you'll agree that a little knowledge will go a long way toward helping you make sense of it all—so you can make smart decisions that will benefit you and your family, today and for years to come. And now, some basic terms:


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These are a few of the most common terms you’ll encounter in health care and insurance
The majority of terms are derived from Greek and Latin and in medical language systematic methodology goes together with science-based vocabulary. The best way to learn medical terminology is to become familiar with the structure and the most commonly used word parts and apply your knowledge to different specific medical areas. Then it is possible to decipher the meaning of most any medical term and actively participate in a dynamic patient-provider encounter as a knowledgeable medical team member.

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NLM is the central coordinating body for clinical terminology standards within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). NLM works closely with the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) to ensure NLM efforts are aligned with the goal of the President and HHS Secretary for the nationwide implementation of an interoperable health information technology infrastructure to improve the quality and efficiency of health care. A summarizing Health Information Technology and Health Data Standards at NLM is also available.

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Do you know the ABCs of health insurance? Claims, premiums, deductibles copayments and coinsurance? It's OK—we know as well as anyone that the language of health insurance can be hard to understand. Yet every day, it's becoming more and more important for health care consumers to have at least a basic knowledge of the industry's terminology.

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The complex nature of interpreting in health care settings demands that practitioners be well equipped for the task. Napier et al. (2006) described medical interpreting as “diverse and unpredictable” as well as a “high stakes setting” (pp. 111-112). Clearly, preparation is key to working effectively in this setting. A review of writings that covered both sign and spoken language interpreting found general consensus on what interpreters need to know, and on personal characteristics that are important in medical settings.

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By far the most commonly cited need for medical interpreters was knowledge of medical terminology (Yaffe, 1999, pp. 1, 12; Barnard, 2005, p. 7; Goldberg, 2003, p. 6; Dower, 2003, p. 3; Napier, 2006, p. 112; Humphreys, 2003, p. 90; Frishberg, 1990, p. 119). The second requirement noted was knowledge of medical tests, treatments, procedures and equipment. Interpreters must be aware of the stages in medical processes, and the relative importance of communication at each stage (Humphrey & Alcorn, 2001, p. 13.35). Interpreters also need to be familiar with human anatomy and with the varieties of medical disciplines, roles of various medical professionals and hierarchies in the health care system. Lest interpreters find these requirements too daunting, Rogers (1999) pointed out that interpreters need not have a degree in medicine or in medical vocabulary to be effective, and should always be willing to ask both patient and doctor for clarification (p. 9). Barnum, quoted in Stewart et al. (2004), suggested that interpreters must be “educated enough in the field of medicine … not to be a doctor … but to be familiar with and comfortable in (the) medical setting…” (p. 110). Interpreters should have a general background in science, and knowledge of common illnesses, and be aware of safety issues that may affect them or their patients. Interpreters should be aware of the influence of culture and power dynamics in medical settings. Emotional issues, such as the ability to bring calm to a stressful situation, the capacity for “being present” for whatever the patient endures, and awareness of the possibility of vicarious trauma, are also important.

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A few sources dealt with specific kinds of procedures. For example, Napier (2006) explained the particular challenges that arise in eye care appointments: Some procedures, such as vision testing in a darkened room, removing a patient’s glasses, or dilation of the eyes, compromise the patient’s ability to see the interpreter (p. 113). Moxham (2005) discussed interpreting various types of medical procedures, including dentistry, physical therapy, home health care, nursing home care, and many more, pointing out challenges and suggesting ways interpreters may choose to deal with them (pp. 25-52).