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Health Education Blog

Common Terms You’ll Hear in a Health Care Clinic

Posted by Staff on April 21, 2017

magnetic words collection - ThinkstockPhotos-177299085.jpgVisiting a clinic can be confusing. You’re going to a new place looking for help, you hear several medical terms that sounds confusing, and you don’t feel well. At our Medical Specialty Centers – Your Everyday Health Care Clinic, we want to help you in any way we can. We’ve put together a small list of medical terms you might hear while at the clinic in hopes it will better your understanding of what they mean in regards to your health.

Length of Problem

Chronic. Chronic refers to any condition lasting longer than six months. This does not mean six months straight; rather something you have battled for six months long. Perhaps it’s a few days here, a few days there, maybe a week of reprieve. Chronic is long term, and typically involves both addressing the underlying condition and managing the symptoms in a way that’s sustainable in the long-term. For example, you've probably heard the phrase "chronic pain."

Acute. Acute means sudden onset, temporary, and lasting less than six months. It’s the opposite of “chronic.”


Lateral. Lateral means it’s further away from the mid-point of your body. It’s accompanied by “right” or “left” to indicate which direction on your body. You may also hear the term “bilateral” meaning lateral on both the right and left side. For example: bilateral mastectomy means a mastectomy on both breasts.

Medial. Medial means it’s closer to the center of your body. If you have an abrasion just to the left of your belly button its location is “left medial to umbilicus.” (Umbilicus is the medical term for your belly button).

Proximal. Proximal refers to a relational direction closest to your body. The term itself means the object of the statement is closer to your body. For example: your bicep is proximal to your shoulder.

Distal. Distal is the opposite of proximal. It means something further away from your body. Your wrist is distal to your shoulder.

Superior. Superior is a medical term for “above.” Of the two main veins leading to your heart, the one on the top is known as the “superior vena cava.”

Inferior. Inferior is the opposite of superior, and means “below.” Example: your knee is inferior to your hip.


Follow-up. A follow-up is the appointment, phone call, or testing you need to attend or do after being seen at the clinic. It’s important to follow through with the follow-up, as it means you need additional health care. Work with the clinic, they may be able to complete your follow-up there after a few days.

Referral. A referral is an official inquiry to another service. We promise it’s not as fancy as it sounds. All it means is the service you need cannot be completed in its entirety where you are, so you need a referral to another location, provider, or service to complete your health care assessment. It’s especially necessary if you have insurance. The insurance will need to see a written referral from your initial appointment to determine your follow-up care is recommended by the doctor, and necessary to your health.

CBC (Complete Blood Count). A CBC, also known as a complete blood count, is a lab test done as a general assessment about the inner workings of your body. The lab test will measure things like your white blood cell count (WBC), protein levels, kidney function, and red blood cell count (RBC). This lab test will help the doctor know where to look to better identify your problem based on what your complete blood count levels look like.

Diagnosis. A diagnosis is an identification of your health issue. It can be written as diagnosis, or more simply “Dx.” A diagnosis will help the doctor determine your treatment plan, and will help you understand what’s happening with your health.

Prognosis. Prognosis means the likelihood of recovery, and what it will look like. Your prognosis can be good, fair, or poor. It may even have a general, average timeline in the healing process. The prognosis can also include treatment required to help you recover, however it’s typically focused on your health’s rehabilitation potential.

We hope this information helps clarify a few things the next time you find yourself in a clinic speaking with a doctor or nurse. At our Medical Specialty Centers – Your Everyday Health Care Clinic, we work hard to ensure you fully understand your health status and the plan for your treatment. We will take care of you quickly and efficiently. Appointments are recommended, but walk-ins are welcome. Open 7 days a week. It’s our goal to have fast and friendly care while delivering quality health care. We have locations in Gridley, and Oroville!

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Our mission at Orchard Hospital is to provide our community with superior health care. We strive to ensure that your experience at Orchard Hospital is as pleasant and comfortable as possible. Our priority is to provide you with the care you need when you need it, with skill, compassion, and respect.

Topics: Healthcare Clinic

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