Hospitals and health systems throughout the country face many of the same challenges. One of the most dangerous — and almost always overlooked (if an organization is even aware of it) — is the persistent use of inconsistent terminology.

When there are a lack of rules guiding definitions, spelling and acronyms or initialisms of words used in an organization, the result is an inconsistent lexicon that can negatively affect planning, operations, communication and credibility.

At the low end of concern is when inconsistencies make a project more challenging or frustrate new staff trying to learn their jobs. Of much more concern is when inconsistencies and varying vocabularies change the meaning of policy, cause erroneous calculations in financial projections or cause patient information to become lost or confused.

Trustees may even find themselves victims of an inconsistent lexicon, particularly if they lack a health care background. It can be a challenge to learn basic health care vocabulary and acronyms; that challenge is magnified significantly if trustees are presented with information that is described differently from one meeting or conversation to the next. This can lead to confusion and frustration and inhibit a trustee's ability to serve the organization effectively.

Fortunately, trustees are in a position to bring the issue of their organization's inconsistent lexicon to the attention of the C-suite. An organization's failure to take these problems seriously and work to address them immediately will cause issues to compound over time and make efforts at correction much more difficult.

5 Examples of Misused Terms

There are numerous ways language is used inconsistently — and often incorrectly — in hospitals and health systems. Here are five examples heard and seen in today's organizations. Read the full list from our sister publication, Trustee.