Contributor: Emily Azari – Health Writer, Emmi Solutions
Talking about our bodies is so often considered taboo… but medicine doesn’t go by the same rules we do at the dinner table.
Case in point: we just developed an Emmi program for patients undergoing hemorrhoidectomy surgery. It was a challenge to find the best way to talk about such a sensitive topic, and it left me wondering how we can get more patients to seek help for these embarrassing problems before they get too serious.
Dancing around delicate subjects
To start, how do you even talk about this kind of thing? With hemorrhoids, the healthy anatomy alone is enough to make most people cringe. And how do you describe it when things go south (that is, aside from bad puns)?
We followed principles of clear health communication.
Rather than hiding behind medical terminology, we tried to normalize things. (After all, everyone poops.) We also used words everyone knows: poop, pee, go to the bathroom. Along the way, we introduced more “sanitized” vocab, but only if they really needed to know the term, and only after defining it first. As far as anatomy, we opened the discussion by saying, “You can’t be too shy and… well, here goes.”
Now, sometimes, there isn’t a way around the ick factor. But when anything gets kind of gross, you can go ahead and acknowledge that, and then say what needs to be said.
We also looked for any places humor could keep things from getting too clinical. You just have to be careful you’re not making someone feel more embarrassed or reluctant to seek treatment than they probably already are. There are times you want to present the information as plainly as possible and keep moving, and there are other times when it’s fair to lighten things up and address the elephant in the room.
The biggest hurdle?
Of course, before you can talk with patients about these problems, they have to seek help. And that can be hard to do. In hindsight, though, it’s something anyone going through hemorrhoidectomy would probably wish they’d done. Continue Reading »