Successful Patient Care


Pharmacists have been shaking their heads about prescribers' handwriting for decades. It seems that there is nothing we can do to fix it.

“It just proves that I am really a doctor.” A slight pause, then, “Yuck Yuck Yuck.” It sounded like a teenager boasting, “I crack myself up.”

There was silence for a long time. I was not going to respond to that. The circumstances were anything but funny. Her negligence, her discourtesy, her lack of respect and her rudeness had caused significant inconvenience for me and my staff and enormous problems for the elderly patient and her family.

I could not read her handwriting. I could not identify the drug, therefore, I could not fill the prescription. The look on the patient’s face broke my heart. I had to tell her that she would have to wait for who-knows-how-long before she could get her medicine and be able to go home and lie down.

Pharmacists have been shaking their heads about prescribers’ handwriting for decades. It seems that there is nothing we can do to fix it. If we point out the lack of decorum, they get defensive. If we sweet-talk them, they laugh it off. We could beg them, but they will fight to the end for their right to scribble orders that can be life or death. I’m telling you it is senseless. It is careless. It is very dangerous. Lawyers are out there drooling over stuff like this.

Something has to be done. EPrescribing. I have been told that it is same old, same old. Garbage in, Garbage out! I have a lot of experience with computer prepared prescriptions. Same old, same old here too. I have seen dangerous doses and instructions. Do you hear law suit? The Dentrix program that dentists use to write prescriptions is very good. I have never seen an error. In the meantime, print your handwritten prescriptions. An Rx written in cursive is invalid in Washington State.

Our Yuck Yuck Queen up above laughed, “My handwriting proves that I am a doctor.”

She didn’t like it when I used the words negligent and rude in the same sentence. I told her that it had been three days and she argued that she did not take her cell phone to Padre Island because she wanted to bond with her young children.

“I have that right,” She made her case. “I am a mother first.” Her voice was pitched too high.

“Your patient had a right to get the medicine on Friday,” I said. “By Saturday morning, her condition had degraded to the point that her daughter and son-in-law rushed her to ER.” I paused. “She was admitted.” I let that sink in.

There was a long silence, then she was back, a take charge girl, running to cover her ass. “Tell me the name of the doctor who admitted her.”

“I don’t know,” I said, “but I do know the name of her attorney.” He had already called and asked for details. I told him that I needed a written release from the patient. He told me that he would get one.

And that is the end of the sad story of one young woman’s egregious handwriting, her cavalier attitude and the mess she found herself in.

This is a no-brainer. The goal is successful patient care.

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