Common sources of errors that have led to the compromising of patients’ health and recovery have been blamed on the lack of understanding of the original message which in general can be classified as communication breach. In depth analysis has shown that most of these breaches occur in prescription and other written communication, not because some people are incompetent and do not understand English but do to the use of non-standard abbreviations that are misinterpreted for other things (ISMP, 2012). The purpose of this article is to delve into matters regarding abbreviation in the medical field and the steps being taken to ensure that indeed unnecessary errors are avoided at all costs.
Abbreviations can be loosely termed as a number of letters that have been used to represent or shorten a long word. As the description suggests, we are prone to shortening words commonly used for the purpose of fast writing convenience and sometimes due to social groupings. In the medical fraternity, abbreviations can be used to represent processes, operations and medication or other prescriptions that may be used by a patient. As stated, these abbreviations can be limited to a particular group of people in a hospital or a lowers still, a particular department in the hospital. It can therefore lack meaning or mean another thing altogether in another department, area or region. Avoiding abbreviation means that whatever needs to be communicated is communicated without distorting the information or bringing about any sort of ambiguity to the issue.
As a result of the impact the distortion may have on the delivery of useful information that may at times be the lifeline of someone. Strict rules regarding the use of non-standard abbreviations should be made. The policies can be either nationwide, regional or in particular institutions. Policies made should be two-fold. One policy should advice against such doings and prescribes disciplinary actions that may be bestowed upon those who default from the system. Secondly, there should be a policy that checks any prescription that is made within the institutions for such errors and more so the ones that go out of the institutions should be verified as checked and approved to avoid wrong interpretation that may be made by other people outside the institutions. Also a list of the standard abbreviations should be included in notification to the practitioners (Joint commission, 2008) as per agreements that have been made in the industry as a whole.
That notwithstanding, the abolishment of abbreviations can translate to more tedious work for persons who are either reading or writing the material to be communicated. Thus abbreviations should ONLY be accepted when they coincide with the standard abbreviations in that particular industry for purposes of uniformity and deleting the possible ambiguity that may exist. In that case, they can be used by every practitioner in the place of work to mean the same thing. That way ease of communication will be ensured and it should be limited only to ones that have been approved as having traceability to the standards put in place.
According to the data mining that have been achieved in preparation of this article, significant efforts have been put in place to ensure that the errors that are propagated through abbreviations are reduced if not extinguished permanently. However, more should be done in terms of more education to the practitioners on the need to use only standard abbreviations that will not elicit any confusion in the implementation of any health action plan designed to help the customer overcome impending illnesses. Moreover, preaching of work ethics and the invoking of conscience is a major avenue that has not been indulged in and it would bring more fruit that imposing policies on a rebellious and unreasonable group. Start with reason then initiate policies (ISMP, 2012).