What is Medical Terminology? [Explanations + Helpful Resources] Medical Terminology 101: Definitions, Applications & Helpful Resources Understanding medical terminology can make all the difference in critical health situations. And while understanding medical language is serious business for care providers, learning medical terminology can actually be a thought-provoking, interesting crash course in the history and development of language and parts of speech. For those who are new to, or are looking to enter the medical field, having a firm grasp on medical verbiage, roots and meanings can give you a leg up as you continue your studies and progress in your career. To get you started, here is our introductory guide to medical terminology, which will serve as a solid foundation as you work to diversify and enhance your medical language skills. What is Medical Terminology Medical terminology refers to the words and language used specifically in the medical and health fields. The proper definition describes medical terminology as language used to describe anatomical structures, procedures, conditions, processes and treatments in the medical field. While memorizing terms across that many disciplines might seem impossible, medical language can be simplified when you understand that nearly all medical terms can be broken down into three parts: the prefix, the root and the suffix. Prefix — appears at the beginning of a term and indicates a location, direction, type, quality or quantity.Root — can appear at the beginning of the word if prefix is absent, but the root indicates the primary meaning of the medical term.Suffix — appears at the end of the word and indicates a specialty, test, procedure, function, disorder or status. Why is Medical Terminology Important in the Medical Field Medical terminology is the linguistic foundation on which the entire healthcare system is built. Because physicians are trained at varying universities and complete their training across different hospitals and disciplines and geographies, having a singular medical terminology system ensures that effective care is delivered while reducing the potential for miscommunication. More specifically, medical terminology is important for a few reasons, both for medical professionals and the field itself. Medical terminology courses or certificates are usually a prerequisite for most graduate degree or certificate programs in the healthcare field.For those already working in the medical field — such as medical records specialists, radiology techs and even physicians — a refresher on traditional and new medical terminology can be helpful and may even be required for license renewal. Why is Standardization of Medical Terminology Important? Studies show that a standardized medical terminology system can improve overall hospital operations — both in terms of data and clinical applications of such data. A second report found that medical terminology and the usage of structured reporting can improve the usage of medical information in secondary activities, such as research, public health and case studies. This not only will help make research efforts more efficient, it will likely result in better outcomes for patients and medical innovation. Additional benefits of standardized medical terminology include: Ensures consistent documentation of clinical informationCreates a streamlined system for data entry and retrieval across electronic medical records for billing and insurance purposesEnsures a consistent understanding of language across the continuum of careEnsures that all relevant parties are educated across a universal standard Improves patient care and safety, research and evidence-based medicineHelps promote efficient communicationHelps create a seamless patient experience Medical Terminology: Examples of Prefixes OpenMd Size large macro-, mega(lo)- small micro- Number half semi- half (one side) hemi- one mono-, uni- two | three | four bi- | tri- | qua(dr/r/t)- equal equi- many poly- Level above normal hyper- below normal hypo- normal/good eu- Time or Speed after post- again re- back/backward retro- before pro-, pre-, ante- fast tachy- new neo- time, long time chron- slow brady- Location or Relationship away from ab- above supra- around peri- across trans- between inter- out of, outside ex-, ec(t)- self auto- through, completely dia- together con- toward ad- within, inside end(o)- Function or Quality against anti-, contra- bad mal- cause eti- self auto- without a-, de- not working correctly dys- Medical Terminology: Examples of Root Words A lot of medical terms get their roots from Latin and ancient Greek language, much like many words in the English and romance languages. Here are some of the most common medical root words healthcare providers must know. Head brain enceph ear ot, aur eardrum tympan, myring eye aphthalm, ocul face faci nose rhin skull crani tongue lingu tooth odont, dent Heart and Circulatory aorta aort arteries arteri blood hem, sangu blood vessels angi heart cardi veins ven, phleb Bones and Muscles arm brachi back dorsa bones oste foot pod, ped muscles myo rib cost shoulder scapul wrist carp Digestive System appendix append colon col esophagus esophag intestine (usually small) inter kidney ren, neph liver hepat stomach gastr Other Common Roots cancer carci drug chem electric electr heat therm knowledge gnos life bi pressure bar returned sound echo Medical Terminology: Examples of Suffixes The last ingredient in a medical term is likely the suffix, which provides more specifics about the term’s application. Here are just a few of the most important medical suffixes to know. Basic Noun and Adjective Suffixes (noun form) -a, -e, -um, -is causing -genic condition -ia, -ism, -sis, -y specialty -iatry, -iatrics, -ics specialist -ian, -ist structure -um, -us study of -logy pertaining to -ac, -ar(y), -(e/i)al, -ic(al), -ior, -ory, -ous, -tic Tests and Procedures removal of -ectomy image/record/td> -gram making a picture -graph(y) cut in -otomy viewing -scopy opening -stomy Pathology or Function blood (condition of) -emia breathing -pnea inflammation -itis condition or disease -osis deficiency -penia disease -pathy excessive flow -rrhag(e/ia) mass/tumor –oma Medical Terminology Resources List Just as you would with any new skill, expanding your vocabulary and learning medical terminology takes practice, practice, practice. To assist you during your studies, we’ve rounded up some helpful resources and study tools focused on medical terminology. University of San Diego Medical Terminology online courseMerck Medical Terminology ManualMerriam-Webster Medical DictionaryOpenMD.com Medical Terminology DictionaryUnderstanding Medical Words: A Tutorial from the National Library of MedicineCMA (AAMA) Practice Exam: Medical TerminologyFree Online Medical Terminology CourseMedical Terminology Flashcard Sets and Study Tools No matter what resource you turn to, we recommend starting with the Medical Terminology course from the University of San Diego. This online, self-paced course allows you to immerse yourself in the world of medical language in a way that works for you and your schedule. Participants in this course gain a deep understanding of important medical, diagnostic and laboratory abbreviations and terms they will need throughout their medical careers. To learn more about this course or any of our healthcare programs, please contact us. Common Questions About the USD Medical Terminology Course How long will this course take me to complete? This course has a maximum of six (6) months from the date of enrollment to complete the course. Students are recommended to allocate a minimum of two weeks (14 calendar days) per semester unit to complete a course; this time frame allows for instructor interaction and feedback between assignments. How is this course accessed? This course is taught in a Learning Management System called Blackboard, and can be accessed at https://ole.sandiego.edu. Students will have full access to the course within two hours of registration. When can I order transcripts? Once all course work is submitted, a final grade is submitted by the instructor. The grade is then approved by the office and posted. Once a final grade is posted, official transcripts can be requested — learn more about transcript requests here. What materials do I need to purchase? The textbook set for this course should be purchased directly from the publisher.