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Glossary: What do all these words mean?

Use this glossary to find medical terms and their explanations. You can search for a particular word or phrase by pressing [Ctrl] + [f] on your keyboard and typing into the box that appears on your screen.

If you can’t find the word you’re looking for, you can ask us to add it.

  • ACC: A government organisation that helps pay for treatment of injuries. ACC compensation is available to anyone in New Zealand including citizens, residents, and visitors. Find out more at the ACC website.
  • Acute services: Healthcare for short-term severe injuries, illnesses, urgent medical conditions, and recovery from surgery.
  • Admission: When a patient goes into hospital or other healthcare facility for treatment or care.
  • After hours clinics: Health clinics that are open late at night and on weekends when most clinics are closed. These clinics may cost more than your usual GP. Phone your local clinic any time for information about where to find after-hours care.
  • Allied health: Healthcare professionals who are not doctors, nurses, or pharmacists. Allied health professionals include audiologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dental services, speech therapists, dieticians, and many others.
  • Assessment: A check to find out what problems a patient may have.
  • Clinician: A healthcare professional who works directly with patients. This includes doctors, nurses, and allied health.
  • Consultant: A senior hospital doctor or surgeon who is a specialist in their field. See also: Specialist.
  • Consultation: A meeting with a doctor or other medical professional to get advice.
  • Community care: Long-term care in patients’ own homes, rather than in hospitals or institutions. Community care usually involves patients who are elderly, or have a disability or mental illness.
  • Diagnosis: When a medical professional judges what type of illness or injury you may have.
  • Discharge: When a patient is officially released to go home from hospital or other health service.
  • District Health Board (DHB): Hospitals and other government-funded healthcare services in New Zealand are controlled by 20 DHBs. West Coast DHB oversees health services on the West Coast from just north of Karamea to just south of Haast. Nearby DHBs include Canterbury DHB and Nelson Marlborough DHB.
  • Elective: A non-urgent surgery. Elective surgeries are usually chosen by the patient to improve their quality of life.
  • General practitioner (GP): Family doctor. GPs usually work in clinics based in the community rather than in hospitals. Many GP services on the West Coast are provided by specially-trained nurses.
  • House Officer: A qualified doctor who has not begun specialty training.
  • Inpatient: A patient who stays in hospital overnight while being treated. See also: Outpatient.
  • NHI number: A National Health Index (NHI) number is given to every person who uses health and disability support services in New Zealand. Health workers use your NHI number to identify you, so you don’t have to repeat the same information each time you use a health service.
  • Occupational therapy: A branch of medicine using activities to help recover from illness or injury.
  • Outpatient: A patient who goes to hospital for treatment but doesn’t stay there overnight. See also: Inpatient.
  • Patient: A person getting medical treatment.
  • Patient-centred: When the patient is the main focus of healthcare. A patient’s health needs and desired results should be the main target of patient-centred care.
  • Patient record: A collection of documents recording a patient’s medical history.
  • Primary care: Health services that are directly in touch with the community. These include GPs, community nurses, physiotherapists, dentists, and pharmacists. See also: Secondary care; Tertiary care.
  • Primary Health Organisation (PHO): A not-for-profit organisation that supports GPs. West Coast DHB funds the West Coast PHO.
  • Referral: When a doctor or other health professional directs you to a medical specialist for further treatment or assessment. Your doctor will write a letter to the specialist introducing you and your illness or injury.
  • Registrar: An experienced doctor training in a specialty.
  • Rehabilitation: Therapy to help recover from illness or injury.
  • Secondary care: Services provided by medical specialists. These include cardiologists, radiologists, urologists, dermatologists, speech therapists, and psychiatrists. See also: Primary care; Tertiary care.
  • Specialist: A senior doctor or surgeon who has specialised in a certain field, such as orthopaedics, paediatrics, cardiology, or public health. See also: Consultant.
  • Tertiary care: Specialist services for inpatients. These include treatments for serious illnesses and injuries, cancer management, and complex surgeries such as heart or brain surgery. See also: Primary care; Secondary care.
  • Wellness: Being healthy. This includes mental and physical health as well as social wellbeing.

Page last updated: 26 October 2018

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