Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Mistakes That Were Dictated But Not Caught

Doctors frequently make mistakes when dictating. And, with top-quality medical transcriptionists acting as linguistic guardians, most of those mistakes are caught and corrected. But what happens when a critical mistake slips by because it sounded correct? Or because all the words went through the spell checker? Or because the transcriptionist had instructions to type what the doctor said verbatim?
Let's examine some classic physician bloopers through the three lenses previously suggested:

"The patient was told to continue drinking normal amounts of urine and come see me in my office in one week."

"Diagnosis: Genital abnormality of the feet."

"He shows involvement of his left arm and left leg, which was absent while he was admitted to the rehabilitation unit."

Let's examine these statements through the three lenses previously described:

  • As an ordinary man on the street, the mistakes described might seem a bit puzzling and out of reach. In some cases, you might see the humor involved. Otherwise, you would probably shrug off the mistakes as language which was beyond your level of comprehension and assume that someone else knew what was meant by the statement you had just read.

  • As a healthcare provider with a strong background in medical terminology, these mistakes might seem quite humorous. They would, however, be easily recognizable and you would instantly understand the need for clarification. You would probably assume that the blame for the mistake lay with a transcriptionist who had typed a wrong word and not caught the mistake.

  • As an aggressive attorney, these mistakes would appear like manna from heaven. Why? You would have found an initial weak point from which you could start punching holes in a doctor's credibility. By calling a doctor's professional competence into question, you could easily strengthen your argument that medical malpractice was the cause of your client's condition.

[Language Skills Worksheet #10 ]

Next: Units of Measurement

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