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Use of non-standard abbreviations and symbols in medical prescriptions: implications for patients\' health

Tamayo Rodríguez M, González Valverde FM, Pérez-Fernández P, Madrigal de Torres M, Pérez Cárceles MD, Osuna Carrillo de Albornoz E.

Abstract
The use of abbreviations, acronyms and non-standardized symbols for medical prescriptions is a known cause of errors. Our aim was to quantify the frequency of using these expressions in ours discharge notes. Medical prescriptions were analyzed to find the frequency of the use of non-standard terms. The mean number of drugs prescribed in the discharge notes was 4.75 (SD=3.56). Only 42.07% of prescriptions was considered correct. We found a statistically significant association between the quality of the prescriptions and the hospital service responsible for emitting them. About 39 % of the prescriptions used non-recommended expressions. The most commonly used abbreviation was “comp” for “comprimido”. Except “cap” (for “cápsula”), which was used in 2.7% of the prescriptions, the use of symbols or abbreviations was negligible. Only 0.7% used non-standard decimals and zeros in the prescribed doses and in none of the 4,055 prescriptions analysed were abbreviations or initials used for chemical and pharmaceutical formulas or for the names of medicines. Almost 50% prescriptions contained an error, whether for the use of abbreviations and symbols to depict the dose, or because of non-recommended expressions to depict decimals and zeros in the dose. Urgent steps should be taken to raise the awareness of doctors concerning the importance of quality in prescribing and the need to take into consideration the future well-being of discharged patients, both of which should be reflected in their discharge notes and in correctly completed prescriptions.

Key words: Prescription, abbreviations, discharge report



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