Scribbled Handwriting


Ever gone to the pharmacy having no idea whatsoever about what’s written on the little piece of paper you are carrying? If you answer no, you are one lucky person and I guess you are one in a million.

Ever since I was very small I have seen prescriptions the doctors gave when I was sick and I wondered how in the world the poor pharmacist can decipher what is written on them. All I can make out is curls, lines, dots, squares and other geometrical shapes which I learnt at the Geometry class. When I was a kid I loved detective stories a lot and I had this pen friend in Germany with whom I communicated using a secret code. Those days I thought the doctor and the pharmacist is also communicating using a secret code of their own and there were times at which I sat down with prescriptions in my hand trying to unravel the secret code.

Anyway as I am all grown up now I understand that the doctor is writing the prescription in plain English and the poor pharmacist earns a living by combing these geometrical shapes and curls into words. In my opinion pharmacists should be awarded a Nobel price for doing this in a daily basis.

Recently I fell sick and my doctor ordered me to take some tests. So I happily went to a nearby hospital and gave the prescription to the laboratory and awaited to be checked. There was one line in the prescription which the lab could not make out. They said it was not a test and something else which they can’t really understand. So I ended up calling the doctor and reading out the two or three letters I could read of the entire sentence he had written. Luckily he remembered what it was and gave me the correct interpretation which put me and the lab people at ease.

I am sure I am not the only one who had experiences like this. If you just stand in a pharmacy for a few minutes you can see many prescriptions going in and out having scribbled handwriting. The thing I still don’t get is, why can’t our doctors who do an immense service to the mankind take an extra minute or two to write the prescriptions in clear handwriting? If they can do that they can put a stop to the suffering our pharmacists and people go through for which I am sure they would be thankful for.

20 Responses to “Scribbled Handwriting”

  • Dilini Says:

    Totally agree… Making out what’s in prescriptions is a nightmare.

  • Kasuni Says:

    “scribbled hand writing” is one of the characteristics that mark one as a doctor… otherwise we too could have written a prescription and taken some medicine… pharmacists know, if it’s scrbbled, it’s from a genuine doctor. sometimes they (doctors) can’t read what they have written, but they still continue to do so…. … believe me, I’m practically being raised by a doctor…

  • Madhumal Says:

    Definitely agree with this one.. I mean, forget about about us being able to read them, no prob; but it being difficult to read for the pharmacist himself is a damn dangerous scenario. Its not like he’s reading out a grocery list where getting an item on the list wrong is a minor detail. We’re playing with people’s lives here..!

  • Haniffa Says:

    He he… true..

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Madhumal: So true Madhumal and very well said. I know another scenario where the pharmacist issued some medicine to a person I know and that was not what the doctor prescribed. The pharmacist couldn’t read what the Doctor had written and issued something which he thought was right.

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Haniffa: he he.. true indeed 🙂

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Kasuni: Unfortunately I don’t agree with you. I know several Doctors who prescribe using clear handwriting. Even if it was scribbled, after the pharmacist issues the drugs people can read the names mentioned on the packets and write the drugs themselves. So your argument does not hold. 🙂

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Dili: Yup, it’s a nightmare alright 🙁

  • Kasuni Says:

    oh well, I haven’t met ALL the doctors in the world…. I’m speaking from MY experience… lol

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    He hee.. I understand and your views are highly appreciated 🙂

  • 128encrypted Says:

    Hi brother, I was googlin this and saw your this important debate. Sorry I have to stay hidden behind the code!. Yes as you said and someone mentions here this is secret communication between doctor and pharmacist .if you could dig deep you will find this early 1900 way in England which introduced to Ceylon. Unfortunately Sri Lanka not adopts the modern Health Care Systems from this (Developed!) countries. Which residence (family unit) get unique Medicare number (eg;-driving licence) and medical centres issues printed prescription to the Medicare number and cannot duplicate. Hope you get an idea now! Simple someone like us not allow to get dozens of sleeping tablets!!
    get well soon

  • Siripala Says:

    Well my wife is a doctor and I had asked her what it really meant… from the doctors point of view its actually like short hand…

    Short cuts in writing stuff down… This will normally happen when a doctor is a ward doctor… because they have many patience to attend and they cannot take time in writing it clearly…

    Also the doctors we call “Family doctors” would also have in some part had gone through this phase as a ward doctor…. So it becomes a habit… in a small instance only a doctor will not be able to understand his handwriting…

    I am not against this but from the information i know i thought i should share it… 🙂

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @128encrypted: Thanks for the comment, and I totally agree with you 🙂

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Siripala: I was wondering who this Siripala was 😀 He he.. thanks for the comment Tai. I guess that explains the root cause. Thanks for sharing the information. Cheers!

  • Aero Says:

    Very true, in fact this prescription and code cracking thing used to intrigue me when I was a kid until I kinda realized that in med school, the docs were taught to diagnose, (which usually comes out in a few minutes, not realizing that there are 100 assumptions going on in the poor doc’s head) and then prescribe (not forgetting the numerous compounds, chemicals and equations which the doc had to memorize all throughout med school)

    So while the poor doc is at war with himself trying to reason out the diagnosis and the prescription, he immediately tries to write the exact medicine which will best workout for his patient, trying not to miss out a single letter, which usually comes out extremely messy and voila you have a prescription.

    The wise pharmacist cracks the messy code whereas, his bread and butter depends on cracking that messy code. Little do we realize that?

    Maybe the poor docs should get their nurses or assistants who usually have a better perspective on the diagnosis to write out the prescriptions, neatly before their patients leave the hospital.

    P.S – Did I refer to the doc as ‘poor doc’? ………….why?

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    Thanks for the comment and I appreciate your criticism regarding the article. I do get your points but if you were under the impression that I am blaming any doctors you haven’t understood the point I was trying to make.

  • Aero Says:

    I was not criticizing your article at all, I appreciate the fact that you even thought about mentioning the whole code cracking thing on ur blog.Its something we realize when we have a prescription in hand and then forget it when we feel better after medication.
    Every story has two sides, I just wrote what I thought about it, from my angle… no criticism involved.

    Good piece of writing 🙂

  • Indika Rathnasekara Says:

    Well said Nimantha. It is nightmare indeed.
    Very recently two pharmacies got it wrong for one of my vitamins.In that occasion I could read what it is and told them.But imagine if it is not.Food for thought.

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Aero, thanks for the compliments and for also bringing out the ‘other side’ of the story.. 🙂

  • Nimantha Baranasuriya Says:

    @Indika, Thanks Indika aiya. It’s very fortunate that you could make out what was written and I am sure you are not the only one who has experienced similar situations.

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