Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Missing Ink- Not Missed in Medicine

I recently finished a book titled The Missing Ink by Phillip Hensher. The book wittingly and nostalgically explores the lost art of handwriting in the modern era. For example, school children are no longer taught cursive, rather, they are instructed on keyboarding.  

Handwritten notes and prescriptions certainly will not be missed in medicine. Here is a recent scientific article on how poor handwriting results in significant medical errors. Written documentation errors occurred in 65 of 1,934 prescribed agents (3.5%). Common mistakes included prescribing errors (37%), transcription errors(53%), and administration documentation errors(10%). The handwriting readability was rated as good in 2%, moderate in 42%, bad in 52%, and unreadable in 4%. The handwriting readability was rated as good in 2%, moderate in 42%, bad in 52%, and unreadable in 4%.

The other day, when the electronic prescription system was down, I reached for a prescription pad and hand wrote several scripts. My penmanship is certainly not beautiful, so I doubt anyone would clamor for future written prescriptions from me.

Phillip Hensher may be right about the relevance of handwriting. Although we will never give up the convenience and clarity of typed print, handwriting ''... involves us in a relationship with the written word which is sensuous, immediate and individual.''

Perhaps this is why writing the prescriptions by hand, albeit slow and possibly illegible, just felt cool.

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