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.

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