Sam Blackman on poor physician handwriting

A valid description of most physicians’ handwriting:

I have a chronic condition: poor handwriting. Dismal. Illegible. Embarassing.

It looks like something between micrographia and block print. Done by a left-handed person. In a hurry. When I get a chance I’ll write something and scan it in so that you can appreciate the absolute mess that my handwritten documents are.

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  • cdclled

    Well according to this month’s TIME magazine, doctors kill 7000 patients a year as a result of poor handwriting. I don’t know how reliable that figure is, but maybe you should work on that.

    Time article: Sloppy Doctors

  • Medie

    7000 patients may die a year by doctors with bad handwriting. But many adults now a day have horrible handwriting. If the doctor can speak what he is writing and the patient can remember it or get a printed piece of paper with instructions that would make everything a lot easier.

  • KateGladstone

    Among the hospitals that call me in to prevent medication errors (by giving handwriting classes to the doctors), a fairly high percentage claim to have “computerized everything” 1 or 2 or 5 or more years ago … yet they still have handwriting problems, because of a crucial 1% to 5% of handwritten documentation that just won’t go away.

    Doctors in “totally computerized” hospitals still scribble Post-Its to slap onto the walls of the nurse’s station, still scrawl notes onto the cuffs of their scrubs during impromptu elevator/corridor conferences with colleagues … and, most of all, doctors with computer systems often have the ward clerks operate the computers, use the Net, or whatever: working, of course, from the doctors’ illegible handwriting. Bad doctor handwriting, incorrectly deciphered by ward clerks using the computer for any purpose, thereby enters the computerized medical record.

    And what happens when disasters like Hurricane Katrina knock out a hospital’s network? More than one hospital, during Katrina, lost its generator, its electric power — and therefore its computer system — for the duration. Even the computer-savviest staff at these locations therefore had to return to handwriting.

    Kate Gladstone – Handwriting Repair –

  • John J. Coupal

    In addition to selling lawnmowers and cultured buttermilk, we pharmacists often call doctors to decipher handwriting on a prescription that is not understandable to us. Better to take a little extra time than to guess what a doctor means.

    Most pharmacists learn the handwriting styles of physicians near them.

  • Anonymous

    Doctors use quite a few abbreviations as well…hopefully these are universally understood in the profession, but when I looked at my record once it was largely meaningless to me…not because of penmanship.

    Noted on that same occasion that the surgeon had indicated on the record that I was to be administered 10 grams of a certain component of general anesthetic (the 10 was handwritten; the “g” was part of the form). I could have sworn he said “1 degree” to his resident during our consult. Obviously whatever it was, was fine, but it did leave me thinking how easily someone might misinterpret a degree symbol as a zero if it wasn’t carefully written.

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