“Herd Immunity” vs “Heard Immunity”

In its Vaccine Glossary of Terms, the CDC defines herd immunity (community immunity) as “a situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely.” But what is the definition of “heard immunity” – a recently popular hashtag on Twitter and Instagram? Substituting “herd immunity” vs “heard immunity” may have been a ploy used to manipulate social media algorithms. But this misspelling was made in so many posts and articles online that people genuinely seem confused as to which is correct.

In medicine, spelling medical terminology the way it sounds can have serious consequences. Words that sound alike may have completely different meanings. The prefixes “hypo-” and “hyper” are a great example; when attached to the same suffixes or roots, they produce terms that mean opposite things. Also, people from different geographic areas sometimes pronounce the same words differently. Put simply, spelling as you speak is dangerous in medicine. So is improvising. Take a second and look up the word in a dictionary or verify with the speaker instead.

For healthcare workers, the bottom line in entering medical data is accuracy. Flowery cursive penmanship may be going the way of the dinosaur, but spelling skills are still essential. That’s true regardless of where we use medical terms – in a computerized chart or in a medical article. Just as we can be influenced by trending typos, we can immunize ourselves and our profession with a good dose of basic medical terminology. Herd immunity, done right.

Herd Immunity In The Age Of Trending Hashtags

In its Vaccine Glossary of Terms, the CDC defines herd immunity (community immunity) as “a situation in which a sufficient proportion of a population is immune to an infectious disease (through vaccination and/or prior illness) to make its spread from person to person unlikely.” But what is the definition of “heard immunity” – a recently popular hashtag on Twitter and Instagram? Whether or not this play on words was a deliberate typo, used to manipulate social media algorithms, it seems to celebrate the trend of spelling medical terms the way they sound.

In medicine, spelling medical terminology based on its pronunciation can have serious consequences, because words that sound alike may have completely different meanings. The prefixes “hypo-” and “hyper” are a great example. When attached to the same suffixes or roots, they produce terms that mean opposite things. Put simply, spelling by ear instead of by the book, is dangerous. Better to take a second and look up the word.

For healthcare workers, the bottom line in entering medical data is accuracy. Just as we can be influenced by trending typos, we can immunize ourselves and our profession with a good dose of basic medical terminology. Herd immunity, done right.

Medical Terminology Bloopers – Melons In The Bathroom

What relationship do melons have to the color of your stools? Medical coders, transcriptionists or medical assistants will immediately understand how this relates to their knowledge of medical terminology. If you’ve ever messed up badly while transcribing a patient’s chart, your provider’s sharp disapproval is something that probably stayed with you a while

Not all medical terminology blunders are funny, but your coworkers won’t likely let you live down the ones that cracked them up! The most reliable way to avoid supplying the doctors’ lounge with a regular supply of side-splitting jokes, is to learn basic medical terminology inside out. For a medical coder, transcriptionist or scribe, learning how to spell a term and knowing what it sounds like, is way more important than being able to personally pronounce it.

Don’t get put off by the long words – that’s a common pitfall. Instead, learn how to break them down. Just because you can’t pronounce a medical term doesn’t prevent you from spelling it correctly or from understanding how it is used in everyday patient care. And that’s the central focus of every healthcare encounter: caring for the medical needs of the people who come to your facility. Once you realize how important it is to patients that you document clearly and correctly, there’s your motivation to get beyond the fear of “big words”.

As mentioned before, medical terminology errors aren’t always funny. Using the wrong medical term in an electronic chart can also lead to dangerous miscommunication or wildly inaccurate medical billing. So even if you think your job only involves typing what you hear, you really need to know the language that you’re typing in – or somebody could get hurt. The responsibility to proofread carefully goes without saying – unless you want to be the hand behind a hilarious chart entry about patients passing “melonic stools”. (For medical terminology newbies, the correct term is “melenic”, the other word sounds like you could be passing watermelons 😉).