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Warning on abbreviation overload

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Abbreviations in doctors’ notes can cause communication difficulties with nurses, a medical legal expert has warned.
Dr Sally Old, medico-legal adviser at the Medical Defence Union, raised the issue after an audit at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.
This found 479 abbreviations were used in 168 sets of medical notes and a further 221 abbreviations used in 25 shift handover sheets. Only 15% appeared in the hospital’s intranet dictionary and just 17% were in a medical dictionary used by paediatric secretaries.
Some had multiple interpretations. For example ‘TOF’ could have meant either ‘tetralogy of Fallot’ or ‘tracheo-oesophageal fistula’.
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