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How’s Your Handwriting?

Does your doctor's handwriting look like this?

These days, people can go all day without writing a single word. We text. We e-mail. We take notes on our iPads.

All this technology is about efficiency and convenience, but for the healthcare industry it means something more.  Technology is helping us improve accuracy and patient safety – especially when it comes to those hurried, scribbled notes doctors tend to be famous for.

In years past, healthcare’s standard practice involved writing an order that would be transcribed by hand, faxed, and then reentered again in the a pharmacy. At the same time, a nurse might be entering the same handwritten orders into a medication record.  All of these touch-points created multiple opportunities for error on a single order.

Another example of a handwritten physician order.

Today, computer-based systems allow a patient’s healthcare team to select medications from a database. The system assists providers to quickly and accurately calculate doses and then transmits the order directly to the pharmacy. Plus, medication fulfillment now has a built-in checks and balances system, including a bar code on all medications used by nurses who scan to confirm a match before giving it to the patient.

By using these closed-loop computerized systems, hospitals can now take even better care of their patients.

Ben Alexander, MD, is a pediatric hospitalist and WakeMed’s Chief Medical Information Officer.

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One thought on “How’s Your Handwriting?

  1. This is a great article. Now…Given the realization that handwritten orders contribute to multiple opportunities for medication errors, isn’t it time that WakeMed pushed forward and made it a requirement for ALL healthcare professionals (MD’s, PA’s, NP’s) to use the computer based system?

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