Objective To assess the understanding of commonly used abbreviations in the medical records among healthcare professionals.
Methods A selection of abbreviations from surgical inpatient admissions (gathered over a 10 day period in October 2008), in the form of a standard questionnaire, was shown to different members of a multidisciplinary team to examine interpretation and knowledge.
Results 209 questionnaires were analysed. The average correct response was 43%. Foundation Year 1 (F1) doctors scored the highest with 57% correct responses, whereas dieticians fared worst (20% correct). Among different abbreviations, NAD (91%) and SCBU (93%) were most often correctly answered, whereas CIC (3%) and STS (0.5%) were the most incorrectly answered. Certain abbreviations which are mostly used by nurses (eg, OTT) achieved a 75% correct response by them compared to only 11% by F1 and 10% by F2 doctors (p<0.001). Similarly, abbreviations such as COBH (p=0.025) and LUTS (p<0.001), although mostly correctly answered by junior doctors, were very poorly answered by nurses.
Conclusion The majority of healthcare professionals have a very poor knowledge of commonly used abbreviations. Use of unambiguous and approved list of abbreviations is suggested in order to ensure good communication in patient care.
- short form
- general medicine (see internal medicine)
- health & safety
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Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.