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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


It is beyond time to do away with Latin and shorthand when it comes to prescription writing. Hand-written prescriptions are the worst since many prescribers drop periods and cross random letters with such careless disregard that we cannot decipher q.i.d. from q.d. from b.i.d. from t.i.d., let alone the abbreviations unique to the prescriber himself. It's also difficult when prescribers make a 4 look like a 6 which sometimes looks like an 8. With e-scripts, it is easier to read, but typing out the frequency is much safer and leaves no question.

Let's petition to have all shorthand removed from prescription orders.
No more abbreviations. There is no standard among healthcare professionals.
In veterinary medicine, S.I.D. means "once a day".
It does not exist anywhere else and this can confuse pharmacists who are not used to seeing it. (It may also be misread.)

One I have been seeing too much of lately is "SX". I learned it as "Symptoms". Some prescribers use it to mean "Surgery" and it can also mean "Sex", though I'm not sure why that needs abbreviated...
It's a little strange to see a prescription that reads "begin 3 days prior to SX" and question whether the patient can anticipate symptoms or sex or is having surgery.

No more Roman Numerals. Many prescribers never figured out any number beyond X=Ten anyway which results in prescriptions for 40 looking like this: XXXX. Wrong.
In some states, quantities on controls must be written numerically AND spelled. We have many prescribers who like to write it like this: X (10). So not compliant with the law. While X is indeed a letter, it is not a spelling of "TEN".

I realize we are in a transition period between full electronic prescribing and handwritten orders. I realize many prescribers are old school and have been prescribing this way for decades. It doesn't make it right. It doesn't mean it's safe. With the volume of prescriptions we see today, this is probably the easiest step we can take to ensure safety and accuracy in patients' prescriptions.

I tell my patients to look at their handwritten orders before they leave the office. If they can't read them, what are the odds I can?

Then there are the abbreviations that look okay until read aloud.

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