1. How can eliminating abbreviations reduce errors?
Abbreviations are usually used for convenience, to save space and to avoid the trouble of spelling out the word fully. Abbreviations are used in medical records and in medical language. Though the usage of abbreviations do have some advantage and make the recording easy and faster, there are several difficulties that could be faced in using abbreviations in medical record. It makes it difficult for the medical professional to understand properly, takes longer to train medical personnel, and it delays proper patient care and often times it hinders patient care.
So eliminating abbreviations can reduce and avoid to certain extent some of these difficulties. Spelling out the word will help understand the message properly and give the right kind of treatment or service as required. Proper communication becomes impossible when abbreviations are used sparingly in documentation. “When we rely on abbreviations in our business writing, we start a process of “inbreeding” that may prevent us from clearly communicating our thoughts to people outside our company, department, or discipline.
Readers are intimidated when they see a bunch of abbreviations; rather than risk embarrassment by asking you what the abbreviations stand for, they’ll read without really comprehending your message (or will skip your document altogether). To make your writing clear, use abbreviations sparingly and explain every abbreviation you do use. Always define an abbreviation the first time you use it”.
2. Should written polices be developed for Abbreviation usage? If yes, what should the policies contain? If no explain.
Yes, it is essential that written polices be developed for abbreviation usage. This will help in using the abbreviations properly and will avoid the consequent errors and difficulties in communication, especially in medical records and communication.
In medical record keeping, already there are regulations in using abbreviations: “Each healthcare facility develops its won list of acceptable abbreviations (that can be used in documents produce in that facility) and a list of unacceptable or “do not use abbreviations”. In addition to that (JCACHO) has a list of abbreviations that should not be used because they cause errors. JCAHO’s National Safety Goal states that these abbreviations must appear on a facility’s “do not use list”.2 So the written policies should contain a list of abbreviations that can be used and should not be used to avoid errors in medical as well as in all documents and communi- cation.
“JCAHO also has addressed errors in interpretation of abbreviations commonly used in health records by publishing a prohibited abbreviation list. The abbreviations note on the list should not be found in the patient health care records of their accredited providers. providers”.
3. When are abbreviations acceptable? Who should use them and why? Abbreviations are acceptable in documents and communication. It is a method of communication In saving time, space and trouble in spelling out the full word. As such using abbreviation can help in solving certain time consuming communication. Medical and technical professionals are the main users of abbreviation. “Abbreviated terms—whether abbreviations, initialisms, acronyms or symbols—save time, space, and the needless repetitions. However, decisions about acceptable and appropriate abbreviations remain ambiguous in modern publishing. While few general rules apply, in most cases, writers need to be familiar with the rules and conventions recognized by specific Usage authorities.”
“Only abbreviations and symbols approved by the organization should and/or medical staff rules and regulations should be used in the health record.”5 In an organization, the rules and regulations in using abbreviations should be written and maintained as a policy item and should be informed to all the staff, so that proper communication and accurate record keeping are possible by avoiding errors and confusion, at the same time saving much time and effort in searching for the right word and meaning of abbreviations use.
“Organizations that create or use abbreviations often in their work should develop an abbreviation data base or glossary to ensure consistency. This data base will also serve as the basis for decisions about abbreviations among different disciples and organizations.”
4. According to the information in the online articles, do you think enough steps have been taken to reduce errors? Explain why you agree or disagree. No, not enough steps have been taken to reduce errors. In fact there is not much done so far to reduce errors occurring from the use of abbreviations. At present the use of abbreviations have increased tremendously due to the internet and internet based communication facilities. “Widespread use of electronic communication through mobile phones, and the internet during 1990’s allowed for a marked rise in colloquial abbreviation. This was due largely to increasing popularity of textual communication services such as instant-and text messaging. SMS for instance supports message”.
In spite of such increased use of abbreviations, there is no proper step taken to avoid errors in modern methods of communication. Even in technical and medical profession there is need for improvement in streamlining the usage of abbreviations. Specific rules and regulation should be outlined for abbreviation usage in all fields so that the related errors and confusion in the usage of abbreviations can be reduced if not eliminated.
1. Gary Black and Robert W Bly: The Elements of Business Writing, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York,1991, p. 116
2. Susan Turley: Medical Language, p. 26
3. Merida L Johns: Health Information Management Technology, AHIMA, Chicago, 2007, p. 93.
4. Philip Rubens: Science & Technical Writing, Routledge, New York, 2001, p. 125 5. Medida L Johns; Health information Management Technology, AHIMA, Chicago, 2007, p. 92
6. Philip Rubens: Science & Technical Writing, Routledge, New York, 2001, p. 126 7. Internet: Wikipedia, Abbreviation, p.2