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Medical abbreviations that lead to prescription errors

When people in the medical field are talking to each other, it can sound like they are speaking a different language to the rest of the people around them. Considering how complex medicine is, it should be expected that doctors speak and understand things on a much different level than patients.

However, when it comes to treating patients, it is crucial that doctors are speaking the same language as each other, nurses, pharmacists and patients. This is why there are standardized abbreviations to use when prescribing medicine. There are also abbreviations that should be avoided, including those mentioned below, as they can lead to harmful errors with medication.

  • Bad dosing abbreviations: A "trailing zero" can lead to a prescription of 10 mg instead of the intended 1.0, so doctors don't need to use trailing zeroes.
  • Timing abbreviations: Doctors use abbreviations like "qhs" to mean "nightly" but others can misinterpret that as "qhr," which means "every hour."
  • Usage abbreviations: Doctors use "AD" and "AS" to mean "right ear" and "left ear," but they are commonly mistaken for "OD" and "OS," which means "right eye" and "left eye." This can lead to erroneous administration of drugs.
  • Medication abbreviations: There are a huge number of medications available, and they often have long, complex names. However, abbreviating them can create serious confusion and result in the prescription of the wrong drug.

These and many other abbreviations are so confusing that doctors are encouraged not to use them, though many still do.

It is also important to note that there could be problems with translating a doctor's handwriting. Today, many prescriptions are requested and filled electronically, but there are still plenty of instances where doctors write out a prescription. If the writing is not clear, there can be serious mistakes made with the instructions, dosage or drug type of a prescription.

If you have been hurt or gotten sick because of a mistake with prescription medication, you may very well have grounds to file a legal claim. You shouldn't have to pay the price for a mistake that was completely out of your hands, and with legal guidance, you can file a lawsuit seeking the financial compensation you may seriously need and deserve.

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