Health Acronyms: The Shorter The Better?

It’s An Acronym World (IAAW).

For better or for worse, everything can be condensed to an acronym. And while healthcare may not own SADBUS (Small And Disadvantaged Business Utilization Specialist), it does have its fair share of questionable character combinations. Well, more than just its fair share. Health acronyms are everywhere.

The Acronym Itself

Some acronyms make long phrases or names of organizations easy to remember, and they can certainly make writing or speech more concise. Certain acronyms even sound like what they’re describing, reminding people what they’re talking about in the first place.

Others are more trouble than they’re worth—they’re long, confusing, and sometimes even downright silly. And if you use them constantly but fail to explain what they actually mean, they can make readers feel uneducated and alienated.

The Impact On SEO

It’s also a mystery as to whether acronyms help or hurt search engine optimization (SEO).

When there’s an acronym that’s very well known, most Googlers will probably type the acronym into the search bar. But for lesser known ones, it’s less likely that people will search for the exact acronym.

For example, keyword research results for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that more users search for the organization’s acronym than the full name (100k-1 million vs. 10k-100k).

The lesser known “Home & Community Based Waiver Program” has the opposite results. The full name has low results—only 10-100 searches. But the acronym, HCBWP, doesn’t even have enough searches to have search data available.

Double Meanings

Some acronyms have more than one meaning, which can be confusing to both readers and search engines.

The acronym “AAA” is a perfect example. It can stand for American Automobile Association, American Ambulance Association, and 191 other meanings.

When an acronym has a double (or triple, or quadruple, or quintuple) meaning, it can quickly turn into an SEO nightmare.

The healthcare organization “Independent Practice Association” gets 100-1k searches annually, while their acronym, IPA, gets 100k-1 million. But IPA’s search top results are for the International Phonetic Alphabet, India pale ale, and Innovations for Poverty Action. So, ranking for IPA in healthcare might be a little more difficult.

The Trick

If you’re going to use an acronym, always spell out the actual meaning of the acronym early in the text.

The Worst Offenders

Enough about how acronyms work. Let’s give out some awards for the best (a.k.a. worst) health acronyms.

health acronyms

KCTCCB4MIOBHCP (Keep checking the CareContent blog for more information on best health communication practices).