A handwriting font for doctors

Link to larger size. Created by Orion Champadiyil (web, Twitter).

(via Steve Silberman)


    1. I worked in hospitals for twenty years, much of that transcribing orders.  I never had a problem reading MDs’ handwriting.  It’s a joke that originated with patients trying to read their prescriptions, which they couldn’t read because they’re written in Latin abbreviations.

      1. No, there’s more than a grain of truth in this.  I majored in Latin in University, and I can ‘read’ all Rx abbreviations.

        I do have one doctor who signs his name so differently on each and every Rx he writes, it looks like a blind forger was at work.

      2. That wouldn’t explain the puzzled expression on my pharmacist’s face recently when I had a Rx filled.  He wasn’t 100% sure what the doctor had written as the name of the drug.  He had to ask me “Are you taking this for …?”  to be sure. 

  1. I think all doctors are required to take courses in “bad handwriting” in medical school or something like that.

  2. Just last week my pharmacist said to me, “I think your doctor is telling you to take 2 of these twice a day, which is twice the dosage I’ve ever seen prescribed to anyone ever before, but I may just be misreading his handwriting.”

    I suggested that maybe it would be prudent to call the doctor to double-check.

    1. Some years ago I happened upon a trade journal for pharmacists. One of the features was a monthly contest where readers were asked to decipher actual handwritten prescriptions that had been submitted. The winner got a coffee mug, and the patient got, hopefully, the correct dose. This is one area where the move to electronic medical records will help clarify things, as the doctor types their orders and they are beamed directly to the pharmacy.

  3. Way too big and rounded.  It needs to be more like squiggly lines: only the barest of bumps above and below the flatline.

    1. yep.  had a boss who was (a) very sensitive about his handwriting (well, very sensitive about everything, really) and (b) loved to issue commands in (his) handwriting.   so we had assembled a ‘codex’ of sorts that attempted to equate the small variations in a horizontal line with his favorite words.  for example, “because” would look a little like “___”.  we had one gung-ho math type that was writing a Markov network program to produce the most likely translations provided with past translations.

  4. This is one of the reasons why hospitals are switching over to electronic medical record (EMR) systems; not only do doctors have to put everything in writing, it’s legible writing, and when they prescribe meds they often have to choose from a drop-down menu of standard dosages. (Before my hospital did this, they had all new professionals sit through a presentation from the head of the pharmacy in which he put up slides of actual orders written at the hospital and asked the doctors if they could guess the drug and dosage; almost none of them could.) If they dictate orders, they have to review and sign the transcriptions before they can be made an order or part of the medical record.

    And, yes, it’s true that lack of practice in handwriting does lead to deterioration; I’ve seen it in my own.

  5. I’d love to see how legible your handwriting is when you’re writing on a paper that is inside your left pocket while you’re running down a hallway because someone’s heart has just stopped but the paperwork still has to be done anyway because the nurse is clamoring for the discharge papers because the patient is insisting that they have to leave the hospital RIGHT NOW AND YOU LAZY DOCTOR WHY THE HELL ARE YOU MAKING ME WAIT IS IT JUST TO MAKE YOU FEEL IMPORTANT OR SOMETHING……


    It’s still a funny picture.

    1. See, I can get why handwriting might be bad in that scenario (though really when errors can cost lives…), but all the bad hand writing on prescriptions I’ve been given were from non-hospital doctors.

      The ER doctors either had the triple duplicate printed by a dotmatrix form for the hydromorphone or standard laser print for simpler stuff, so no problems for pharmacies parsing that.

  6. Pharmacists in my University are required to take a course that makes it easier for them to read a Doctors prescription. So this is SO true!! 

  7. This reminds me of an anecdote from Frank Abignale.

    “I remember the first night I was there a nurse came up to me and said, ‘Uh, Dr. Williams, I know you haven’t done this in a while, but don’t forget, you need to write in the charts before the end of your shift.’ ‘Alright, the charts. Thank you.’ So I went into the office and opened up the charts; couldn’t read a word. I mean you gotta see the way these doctors write. I figured, ‘Good penmanship doesn’t make any sense; they’ll know I’m a phoney.’ So I would literally just scribble for about three lines and then I’d sign it. The nurse came back. ‘Thank you doctor.’ ‘Oh, it’s no problem, no trouble at all.’ Nobody ever asked me what I wrote!”

  8. As a pharmacist, I much prefer prescriptions to be hand-written, faxed, or called in, versus electronic prescribing.  Why?  I’ve seen a huge jump in prescription errors with e-prescribing; the prescribers simply select the wrong choices on the menus and we receive a perfectly legible prescription that is also completely wrong.  Sometimes we don’t know until the patient shows up, we tell them of the changes in the prescription…and they tell us is wasn’t supposed to change. 

    It’s rare that we cannot decipher a written prescription: it’s a very limited language, there’s only so much they CAN say, which narrows the possibilities…though sometimes we d0 have to call to confirm the patient’s or even the prescriber’s name.  It’s much less likely for a doctor to make a gross prescribing error (wrong dose, wrong drug, etc.) on a hand-written prescription than when they’re hastily clicking choices from a drop-down menu.

    To top it off, there are frequently several hours of delay before a submitted e-prescription gets transmitted to the pharmacy; so frequently the anxious patient arrives long before the prescription does…and if the prescription does has an error, it can take days to correct.  Some prescribers have sent us the same wrong prescription 3 times or more, even after multiple calls requesting corrections.

    Given the rise of e-prescribing errors, I recommend that everybody check EVERY prescription you get, even the refills, and make sure the drug, dose,  instructions and quantity match what you and your prescriber discussed, BEFORE you sign for the filled prescription (after you leave, legally they can’t take it back). 

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