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In Other Words...Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Other Healthcare Shorthand - Health Literacy

Posted Nov 18 2008 12:13am

In Other Words...Abbreviations, Acronyms, and Other Healthcare Shorthand - Health Literacy: "Frank Federico, RPh, is concerned about abbreviations and acronyms from a patient safety point of view. Federico is content director for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One area that particularly concerns him is the use of abbreviations for medications.

Federico says one of the more serious safety concerns is the fact that the meaning of an abbreviation may differ from one hospital to another. For example, depending on where you work, “MTX” could stand for either “methotrexate” or “mitoxantrone” (different drugs that are both used to treat certain kinds of cancer).

Another concern is providers using a variety of abbreviations and shorthand terms when communicating orally with patients. For instance, one provider might refer to a patient’s drug as “HCTZ” while another might call it “hydrochlorothiazide.” A third may refer to it simply as a “fluid pill.” The confusion only mounts when the patient picks up his prescription from the pharmacy and the pill bottle has yet another way of describing ingredients and dose."

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