According to a 2006 study, about 7,000 Americans die each year because of physicians’ bad handwriting. This alarming statistic is followed by too many tragic anecdotes. One patient suffered kidney failure after receiving the wrong medication. A pharmacist called a nursing home to confirm what he felt like was an “unusually high dose” of medication, only to be told by nursing staff that it was indeed correct. The dose resulted in the death of a patient.

One way to go about fixing the problem is to require doctors to print out the prescriptions they give. This would lead to fewer errors due to poor or sloppy handwriting. Certain medical abbreviations, such as IU could be avoided as well since, for instance 6IU could easily be misread as 61U. Also suggested is avoiding putting decimals after numbers trailed by a zero such as 4.0. These are often missed and that 4 becomes 40.

As a patient, or caregiver, make sure you can read each prescription before leaving a doctors office. If you are unsure of a medication have it spelled out for you so that you know what to ask for at the pharmacy. Your pharmacist is also a resource. You should ask them if the dose and medication seems appropriate. Taking time to double check your medical care could save your life.  See article here.

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