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A gold standard for prescribing terminology

Posted by Kara Gilbert on 19 February 2016
A gold standard for prescribing terminology

Are you involved in writing clinical scenarios or reporting on clinical data or undertaking similar projects that require you to use abbreviations, dose expressions and symbols for medication?

Read this article from the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare (ACSQH) and you will feel like you have just found a long lost jewel of the Nile!

Click on the title shown here to access the article:

Recommendations for Terminology, Abbreviations and Symbols used in Prescribing and Administration of Medicines

It is interesting to see that the language of Latin is wearing thin even on our highly educated health care professionals. Plain English is fashionable.

The language of medication prescribing and administration is actually a very important topic. The consistent and clear application of terminology and abbreviations to these contexts is critical for patient safety. The article reports that in one study 29% of prescriptions in a large US urban teaching hospital contained a dangerous abbreviation. So, any write-up in this area is no casual matter.

The tables in the document are excellent resources for establishing consistent prescribing terminology and abbreviations. They also highlight those symbols and abbreviations that are particularly risky to use.

Medication compliance is a complex area.

Obviously, consistency in usage of terms will support health professionals, patients and their caregivers in administrating medicines correctly and minimising harm to the patient.

Yet, never assume that everyone is health literate, even if we stick to a common system for terminology. The case of Lia Lee, a Hmong child in the US diagnosed with epilepsy whose story is recounted by Anne Fadiman in 'The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down', highlights the reality of well-intended people not getting their script right.

Lia's medication schedule never really took hold because her parents concept of time was oriented towards "the cock-crow system rather than to the clock" (p. 115). Posting a daily schedule for medication administration using clock times just didn't make sense to them.

I am sure my colleagues in medical writing will find the recommendations by the ACSQH as valuable a resource as I do - like gold!

Author: Kara Gilbert @ KMG Communications

Kara GilbertAuthor:Kara Gilbert
About: Medical writer www.kmgcommunications.com.au
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