Prescription Solutions

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Healthcare has lagged behind other fields in its incorporation of electronic systems that enable instant communication between prescriber and pharmacist, and that cut medication errors drastically. Despite the startling statistic in national reports that Americans are 10 times more likely to be hospitalized by a prescription drug than by a car accident, healthcare workers persist in clinging to outdated methods of dealing with prescribing medication. Handwritten prescriptions--though known to be a prime source of errors--are still the norm.

Custom and Handwritten Prescriptions

Prescriptions are of ancient origins, from the ages when medical practitioners ordered herbs and plants for poultices and created compounds from the Earth's substances. From the need to have a universal language for communications among practitioners, Latin was used as the basis for writing prescriptions. Even today, certain Latin terms and abbreviations are used by many prescribers.

"Rx" is an abbreviation for "recipe," which comes from the Latin meaning, "take thou" this medicine. "Sig" in a prescription is short for "signatura," which comes from "sign" or "label." This section includes directions for the patient regarding the medicine. The superscription includes the date of the prescription, and the name, address, and age of the patient.

The inscription, which is the body of the prescription, contains the name and amount or strength of each ingredient. The subscription enumerates the instructions to the pharmacist, such as "dispense 10 tablets." The labeling and instructions to the patient should be in English, even though prescribers often use Latin abbreviations when writing the prescription. Number of refills should be indicated on the label, as should the physician's preference for propriety or non-propriety (generic) medications. Obviously, with all this detail, the potential for errors is high.

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