Heartburn? Half in British Survey Can't Locate Heart on Anatomy Diagram

Researchers in the United Kingdom and New Zealand who surveyed 722 British adults said that about half could not correctly locate the heart when shown a diagram of the human body, reports BMC Family Practice, a medical journal.

Participants -- including "general public" samplings as well as patients who had health conditions such as respiratory or cardiac ailments -- were shown line drawings of human figures that had areas shaded in gray. They were then asked to choose the illustration that showed, for instance, the location of the lungs and the heart.

Only 50.5 percent of cardiac patients could correctly identify the heart, compared to 55.6 percent of the general public survey group. And only 37.1 percent of respiratory patients could find lungs on the diagram.

Researchers said the survey results were about the same as those from 30 years ago...even though the Internet might have been expected to make education more accessible. "Doctors may use anatomical and other technical terms under the mistaken belief that these will be readily understood by their patients," the report said. "This overestimation of patient knowledge has been shown to have negative effects on doctor-patient communication in a range of healthcare settings."

That's something to keep in mind when you're have clinical discussions with clients. This study suggests they're probably not anatomy experts -- even if they have related medical conditions -- and may need you to define some of those terms you're using.

This article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Mobility Management.

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