Illegible hand, a doctor’s trademark

Poor handwriting and the medical profession are  closely associated in our mindset. Which is why I was amused to read about Mysore pharmacists representation to the government about crappy handwriting of doctors. The medical shop guys want local doctors to issue prescriptions, with a printed list of drugs (striking out those not applicable).

Though it has been two months now, the representation hasn’t had any effect. I am not surprised. Printed prescription, as pharmacists association suggests, would take away the personal touch; wouldn’t be quite the same  as  an old-fashioned prescription, written in doctor’s own flowing, if somewhat scrappy, hand. 

Pharmacists plea is that the docs could try to be more legible; and write out the names of drugs in caps. I can’t visualize our medical fraternity sign up for a hand-writing crash course. In fact, any effort to engineer improvement on this score would be tantamount to tampering with a doctor’s trademark –  poor hand-writing. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is in their DNA. But then haven’t we heard parents, seeing their children’s kindergarten scribble, saying they might  grow up to be doctors?

Of course not every kid with scrappy handwriting becomes doctor; but empirical evidence suggests that every other doctor has a handwriting that looks like ‘chicken droppings’, as my wife would say. But then she says journalists share this handwriting thing with medical profession. She has often  helped me  read my own speed-written notes so that I could,file a cogent report to my newspaper.

Mysore pharmacists claim there are chances of a mix-up in dispensing drugs if they can’t read a doctor’s prescription. And nowadays there are a number of drugs with similar sounding brand-names, adding to the confusion.The pharmacist’s prescription to the doctor: Use printed format; or write the names of drugs in caps. 

As an old-fashioned stakeholder – someone who gets indisposed  now and then – I am all admiration for the reading skills of our pharmacists. It is because of their unfailing skill I have managed to survive nearly seven decades now, without a single mix-up caused by a medical attendant who couldn’t read my doctor’s prescription. Old hands in most medical shops have this intuitive skill to decipher what doctors prescribe. I used to think this came with their schooling. Today’s pharmacy schools, it seems, don’t teach students the life-saving prescription-reading skill. 

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5 Responses

  1. Never lose a doctor’s prescription !! It helps you to get into VidhanaSoudha, a Movie Premier show or a Twenty20 cricket match, because nobody understands what’s written there or who wrote it! That’s why everybody is scared and treats you like a Royalty.

  2. very nice article, i added it to my bookmarks

  3. Some forty years ago,at the counter in Raghulal and Co there were no pharmacy graduates, and yet the dhoti clad gentleman there was able to figure out many wiggly patterns on a piece of paper dished out as prescription and never once made a mistake. Those days they knew if they made a mistake there was a cousin of theirs in Dhanwantri Road who would gratefully welcome the new customer.

  4. sometimes docs do it deliberately, if you ask me. my late father , a doctor used to have a good HW, but his prescriptions were scribbled. when i asked him once about why these things are looking so unreadable, he just smiled, i think it is a game played between docs & pharmacists…

  5. The name of the medicine must be legible, as well as the dosage. One patient died because the prescription was illegible and was given the wrong medicine. The pharmacist mistook Isordil for Plendil, completely different medications with dangerously similar names. The doctor’s signature may be illegible without too much trouble, however.

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