Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mistakes That Metastasize

Let's take a simple mistake in documentation as an example of what can go wrong. If, somewhere in the process of generating and cashing your paycheck, someone had mistyped a digit or misplaced a decimal point, the amount of money you received might change dramatically.

  • Would you be able to correct the situation at once?

  • What would you do if you came up short of cash?

  • What would you do if you had already written several checks based on the amount of money you thought you would received?

  • How long would it take you to undo all of the accounting mistakes that had been generated by this one particular error?

This is what happens with mistakes in medical records. Not everyone communicates effectively -- especially in a field where many people are rushed for time, have foreign accents, or have developed the habit of using abbreviations and acronyms as a means of saving time.

Proper use of medical terminology between members of the patient care team can lead to the accurate diagnosis and treatment of a patient's symptoms. Improper use of medical terminology (and the English language) can have disastrous results.

Just try to imagine the true predicament of the patient whose doctor reported a potassium level of 42 (rather than 4.2) or a fasting pH of 1.3.

The patient would be dead.

[Language Skills Worksheet #7 ]

Next: When English Is A Doctor's Second Language

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