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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Deciphering the Doctor's Handwriting

We all heard about the Da Vinci Code right? But there is something more difficult to comprehend and very difficult to decipher: the doctor's handwriting... it's a great mystery why Doctor's handwriting is illegible. There is also this study conducted by the British Medical Journal to check if doctor's handwriting were legible. Guess what the result is? Doctors Fail Handwriting Test!

For years now I have always been told that my handwriting is like a doctor's. This is meant to be a joke of course, but can also be misunderstood for an insult. It is true that I had my own share of horror and eye strain from trying to read and make sense of the scribbles and marks written by doctor's on their Doctor's Order.
In fact I always have to team up with my other duty mates to help me break the secret of the doctor's handwriting. But we always end up making mistakes. It amazes us though that my clinical instructors are able to understand this foreign handwriting. We always ask our CI's in wonder how in the world do they understand those scribbles and doodles? Their answer? Lot's of experience with doctor's orders. But even the experienced staff nurse also makes mistakes because there are doctor's handwriting are so encrypted to the point that deciphering it is no use. Just a thought: Doctor's should get into the date security business.

But what is so important about doctor's having legible handwriting? Simple, a misunderstood order could lead to death of a patient. Don't believe me then take some time to read this article from BBC News: Health Doctor's Scrawl Blamed For Patient's Death. As the article shows a poorly written order or prescription could lead to a patient's death.

But let us not flame our doctors because it is not their fault too that they have such illegible handwriting. We also have to think that they have a lot of patients to take care of that is why they have to do their charting very quick. But how come nurses are able to have more legible handwriting when nurses are the ones who are with the patient 24/7 and are always documenting every procedure they do for every patient?

But there is nothing we can accomplish with complaining that we can't understand the doctor's handwriting. What we can do is look for a solution. The best solution with this problem is electronic orders or prescriptions. The orders and prescriptions are just flashed into the monitor with beautiful and neat computer generated text. This may be already true to First World Countries like USA, Canada, and the UK. But in the case of the Philippines? We can't do anything but pray that the doctor writes in print or we nag them to death to interpret their handwriting or our license is on the line. Wait, I don't have a license yet.

2 comments:

Joe said...

http://www.bloodline-themovie.com/

this is an intense documentary on the mysteries of Jesus’ Bloodline. Those of you who are into ‘The Da Vinci code’ or ‘holy blood holy grail’ will be amazed by this real-life adventure with actual holy relics found.. I was amazed.

KateGladstone said...

Here in the USA, one emergency medicine physician is doing his
best to change how doctors write.

Harvey Castro, MD (founder of the Deep Pocket Series medical software firm) is taking steps to have his colleagues prevent or remediate "medi-scrawl" (poor physician penmanship, caused by speed and stress of medical school and a medical career which make it difficult to follow the printed or cursive formations one may have in mind). Dr. Castro is working on his own handwriting -- and urging others to do the same -- with the aid of one of his latest software offering, an iPhone app called Better Letters -- a multi-featured handwriting course on the iPhone, designed to teach an accident-resistant style of rapid legible handwriting. Putting this course onto a cell phone means that doctors can take it anywhere and practice their handwriting discreetly at any time.

This app is attracting many users -- not only doctors -- and today it reached #132 in the iPhone App Store's list of Top Medical Software.
Additionally, it appears in the current (December 2009) GQ magazine: (USA edition) in a piece titled "Penmanship: It's All in the Wrist" on cyber-resources to prevent and remediate dysfunctional handwriting (page 128, sidebar in lower right-hand corner).

For more information, see the company's informational page about the app --
http://bit.ly/BetterLetters --
and vist the app's App Store page at
http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/better-letters/id335485938?mt=8