The article authored by Kuhn (2007) analyzes the use of abbreviations and acronyms in healthcare and considers it a problem and a threat to patient safety. This problem implies abbreviations similar in sound and spelling, which lead to serious medical errors. In 2004, the Joint Commission created a list prohibiting the use of a minimum number of abbreviations. Still, it did not solve the problem of the risk of using abbreviations in healthcare since the scale of the problem is more expansive than provided for in the list.
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The use of acronyms has many advantages, among which it is possible to distinguish a clear saving of space and time when used in writing and oral speech. Abbreviations in the documentation are simple, short, and easy to use because it is difficult to make a mistake in writing them (Tariq & Sharma, 2020). Nevertheless, the seemingly apparent simplicity of medical abbreviations has caused serious errors and, consequently, deaths among patients. For example, the problem with using abbreviations is their ambiguity, leading to misinterpretation (Kuhn, 2007). Ambiguous abbreviations are often used in clinical trials. It makes it difficult to determine which trial is meant.
In addition, modern healthcare is characterized by the specialization of some services and disciplines. It leads to the fact that many commonly used abbreviations are unintelligible to doctors of other specialties. For example, CP for crystalline penicillin, accepted in the United Kingdom, will have different values in the United States (Kuhn, 2007). To protect patients, various measures have been taken to create standards for the use of acronyms. There are three strategies whose primary goal is to ensure safety when using abbreviations in healthcare: education, law enforcement, and leadership.
Education includes the development and distribution of all kinds of educational materials. Enforcement is a method of compliance with standards and compliance with the list created by the Commission or loss of accreditation. Finally, leadership is a firm position and an example of proper behavior, the most effective and promising strategy (Kuhn, 2007). The author of this article has provided several recommendations that can solve the problem of the unsafe use of acronyms. Among them, it is possible to distinguish a common and understandable language among suppliers, the setting of standards by the authors of scientific articles, and the practice of using the whole descriptive language of the nursing profession.
Kuhn, I. F. (2007). Abbreviations and acronyms in healthcare: when shorter isn’t sweeter. Pediatric nursing, 33(5).
Tariq, R. A., & Sharma, S. (2020). Inappropriate medical abbreviations. StatPearls [Internet].