Shakespeare may have opined that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” but a new report from JAMA Network Open reveals that the words you choose when speaking with patients matter a great deal—to the extent that they can actually affect healthcare quality and patients’ opinions of you as a provider. Researchers who looked at 600 patient encounters involving 138 physicians discovered six ways that physicians express “positive” feelings (eg, compliments, approval, personalization) and five ways they express “negative” feelings (eg, disapproval, discrediting, and stereotyping) toward patients in medical records. Negative language consisted of instances in which the provider questioned patient credibility; expressed disapproval of patient reasoning or self-care, stereotyped by race or social class, portrayed the patient as difficult, or emphasized physician authority over the patient. Positive language tended to be more explicit and included direct compliments, expressions of approval, self-disclosure of the physician’s own positive feelings toward the patient, minimizing blame, personalization, and highlighting patient authority over their own decisions. The authors concluded that “negative attitudes toward patients can adversely impact healthcare quality and contribute to health disparities.” While the article did not focus specifically on patient gender and sexuality, evolving standards of how to address and refer to patients who may be gay, bisexual, or transgender have also been found to affect not only the patient’s perceived quality of care, but their willingness to seek and participate in their care in general. These issues are addressed in an article in the September issue of JUCM. You can read Best Practices for LGBTQ-Friendly Urgent Care right now.

Watch Your Language; The Words You Choose Can Actually Diminish the Quality of Care You Provide