Published Online: Monday, October 1, 2007

The findings of a new study reemphasize the danger of health care abbreviations to patient safety. Although abbreviations are known to cause medication errors, the current study is the first to examine the exact characterization and impact of these errors.

Writing in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety (September 2007), researchers stated that nearly 5% of all errors reported to US Pharmacopeia's MEDMARX between 2004 and 2006 were attributed to abbreviations. The analysis of almost 30,000 medication-error reports involving abbreviations suggests that health care professionals should consider additions to the "Do Not Use" list.

The 3 most common types of abbreviation- related errors were prescribing, improper dose/quantity, and incorrectly prepared medication.

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