Prosthetic (mis)speak


Prosthetic malaprops 11.05.13

Listening to people talk about issues relating to the prosthetic world sometimes resembles a comedy routine. The vernacular tends to trip people up. I have therefore taken it upon myself to list the Top 5 Prosthetic Malapropisms.

#5: Prostheticists

Most people find the word “prosthetist” challenging. What confuses me, however, is why they substitute a more complicated version of the word for the original. I’m not a speech therapist, but my working hypothesis is that a person’s brain thinks it knows the word until it gets halfway through saying it, at which point it realizes it’s hopelessly out of its linguistic depth. And so, confronted with the option of either (a) stopping and trying to say the word again, which announces to the world that you don’t know the word, or (b) continuing on and adding a syllable to try to fake your way through it, many people choose (b).

Just a quick note, though, for all of you who go down that path: you’re not fooling anyone. Better to go with option (a), which at least is intellectually honest and ensures that you eventually learn how to say it correctly. But by all means, feel free to keep trying to sneak (b) by us. It’s infinitely more amusing to watch you beam with pride after you say something that’s so obviously not English.

#4: HCFA Privacy Laws

A personal favorite of mine, this is an example of incorrectly mashing up two entirely different terms and concepts.

Step 1: Way back in the mists of time, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS” or, more commonly, “Medicare”) went by the name, Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA). Step 2: Then fast-forward to 1996 and the passage of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a Federal law setting forth certain privacy protections for protected health information such as your Social Security number, address, and date of birth. Step 3: Listen to people who have been around long enough to know both terms inappropriately substitute the latter for the former.

I have seen prosthetists tell patients that they cannot talk to them about a particular matter involving that patient’s own care and treatment because it’s “HCFA protected.” I especially like this because it not only contains the already-mentioned acronym switch-out, but it also reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about what the HIPAA law – the law they’re meaning to reference – protects.

Folks, when talking to a patient about his or her own protected heath information, you can’t decline to speak to them claiming that it’s “HIPAA protected.” And that’s because the patient’s protected health information – name, SSN, and phone number is their own! How can you violate patients’ privacy by revealing to them the information that they gave to you in the first place? (Hint: you can’t.)

#3: Collaboration of records

A late entry to the malapropism sweepstakes, “record collaboration” arises out of a topic I’ve written about several times: Medicare’s increased scrutiny of prosthetecists’ (stay with me) documentation. Since August 2011, Medicare has denied a staggering percentage of prosthetic claims on the ground that the prescribing physician’s medical records do not corroborate the prosthetist’s.

The cute aspect of this error is that in order to get corroboration, you need better collaboration between physician and prostheticist. Amazing what happens when you replace “rro” with “lla,” isn’t it? It’s Like a whole ‘nother word.

#2: IUD’s

I take a car service to the airport when I travel so that I don’t have to walk 14 miles from the parking lot to the terminal. I use the same service all the time and over the course of 7+ years and too many trips to count, I’ve become friendly with many of the drivers.

One of them is a lovely older gentleman. Friendliest man you could ever hope to meet. He knows what I do for a living and enjoys talking about it. So I was startled to learn from him a few years ago that our brave men and women in the U.S. military have apparently been losing their limbs to destructive, potentially lethal devices: IUD’s.

I had never known that an IUD could cause so much carnage. I’ve met many people in the military and none of them ever admitted to me that an IUD claimed their limb(s). (Actually, thinking about it now, I can sort of understand why.) I found the driver’s disclosure shocking not only because I was, up until that exact moment in time, an IUD-as-weapon neophyte, but also because I couldn’t believe that we weren’t providing the military appropriate protection against them.

This same driver – who, I feel compelled to state yet again, is a great guy whose company I enjoy – also makes a point of praising the prostheticists (yes, he uses that term as well) who help restore our Wounded Warriors from the scourge of IUD’s. He drives more slowly than most of my drivers, but the time just always seems to fly by because I’m so entertained.

#1: “Bologna Amputee”

The winner because when we refer to this level of amputation, listeners struggle to understand why we’ve violently and inexplicably changed the discussion from limb loss to deli meats. We have hemipelvectomy and hip disarticulation amputees. Above-knee and knee disarticulation amputees. And then, of course, there are the bologna amputees.

When I talk to people unfamiliar with the limb loss world, they sometimes attempt to show how much they understand by energetically nodding their heads while I speak. Their heads bob up and down methodically until roughly 3 seconds after the words “below-knee amputee” leave my mouth. Then their smile vanishes, replaced by confusion, and the head comes to a stop as they query, “Bologna? Wait, I don’t understand.”

*   *   *

I’m guessing my peers have at least 20 more of these gems that they can easily recount. Feel free to drop your favorites in the “comments” below. Any especially spectacular submissions may warrant me revisiting my top 5.

3 thoughts on “Prosthetic (mis)speak

  1. Love this week’s article. As a balogna ampute e and etymology teacher, I must use your article in class, if you don’t mind. We are studying malapropisms tomorrow, so it. Is perfect.

  2. Old article. But I appreciate this.
    Just left an orthotist’s office who is taking over care for my mother’s hand contractures. He mentioned how her case compared to some amputees he’s treated, specifically “bologna amputees.” Took twenty minutes on google to find this article and figure out what the guy was actually saying.

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