Every year the poor handwriting of doctors is responsible for the deaths of 7000 people each year. As tragic as that sounds, it gets even worse, as that figure is only the tip of the iceberg for the trouble that sloppiness when it comes to penmanship is concerned. It might surprise you to learn that the very same disastrous handwriting results in around 1.5 million people suffering injury annually. And this is only in the United States.
Doctors, despite their wealth of knowledge are not the best when it comes to handwriting. To be brutally honest, in the majority of cases it looks as though their writing was written by a blind person while they were jogging down a road using their weak hand. In other words, it’s terrible, sloppy and just plain bad. So it should come as no surprise to learn that mistakes are made when it comes to deciphering any prescriptions or medical orders.
As patients, we have all looked at the prescriptions that doctors have written us and wondered what in living hell have they just prescribed. Hardly a word is recognizable, let alone any single letter. Yet while essentially the contents of the order will find their way into our bodies, it is up to the pharmacist to work out what the doctor has ordered. It must be one of the hardest jobs out there.
In July 2006, the National Academies of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) released findings that found that 1.5 million Americans were injured, and a further 7000 deaths were caused by doctors bad handwriting every year. A lot of the mishaps were caused by abbreviations that were simply unclear, incorrect dosage amounts, and poor handwriting. The two former were also exacerbated by the latter, which is a common complaint. The IOM used the figures to promote the idea of electronic prescriptions, which are growing in popularity, but only about 10 percent of all doctors actually use the technology.
While the ultimate numbers are nothing short of catastrophic, they represent fewer that 1 percent of all prescriptions written around the country. Each year about 3.2 billion prescriptions are written by doctors, which results in less than half of a percent of casualties to the general public.
The study that was released in 2006 only focused on the USA. Given the numbers, it could be assumed that the figures could be replicated in other countries around the world, meaning that potentially several million lives are harmed by the bad handwriting of doctors, with deaths worldwide reaching tens of thousands annually.