Published On : Thu, Aug 8th, 2013

Painful Prescription : Doctors in Nagpur agree with MMC’s fresh dose over their handwriting

Nagpur News: As Author Earl Wilson famously quoted – “You may not be able to read a doctor’s handwriting and prescription, but you’ll notice his bills are neatly typewritten” – his saying stands true even in today’s scheme of things. However, such prescriptions with apparently alien words can be smartly decoded by the guy at the medical shop in the doctor’s neighborhood. Perhaps this points to some ‘business equation’ that works towards the chemistry between doctor and pharma companies who reportedly ‘reward’ the physicians prescribing their brands. Anyways, this is certainly not our bone of contention at the moment. Our concern is to take you through the shabbily written prescriptions of doctors. With the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) directing the doctors to write their prescriptions in legible and neat writing so as to enable patients to see through what is prescribed to them, a debate of the sort has been stirred among the wellness fraternity.

Nagpur Today gets to take this matter to some of prominent doctors in Nagpur to have their say over their prescriptions.

…And the patient died

Consultant Nephrologist Dr S.J. Acharya remembers a true story he experienced during the days of his internship. He narrated, “I remember an incidence during my internship. An old man aged 82 years was brought to me in a comatose state. History revealed that the patient had headache since 4 days for which he went to a doctor who prescribed tablet Duodil (an analgesic  tablet). The chemist read it as Daonil ( an antidiabetic drug which reduces blood sugar).”

He further revealed, “The poor patient took one tablet, naturally had no relief from headache, so he took another and after few hours  went in to deep coma due to low blood sugar.  By the time relatives brought the patient to the hospital, patient had irreversible brain damage due to very low blood sugar. Patient died. Now I often think that this death was a preventable death, in fact it was the callous handwriting of the doctor which caused this mishap.”

He said, “I often wonder that why our colleagues do not write the prescription properly. If hand writing is so bad, they should use only CAPITAL letters instead of cursive writing or else, type it. After all, your patients well being is determined by what you prescribe, Isn’t it ?

“I wonder how come doctors can write their bills so well in eligible handwriting but not their prescriptions!!”, he quipped

Be careful about allergic drugs

Renowned ENT specialist Dr BK Sharma though agrees that doctors hurriedly write prescription owing to the huge rush at his OPD, he however advocates that their writing should be at least readable to pharmacist. He said, “It can be understood that if the doctors try to write neatly it will consume much of his time and he will face difficulty in attending the mad rush at his place but it is equally necessary that doctors should not only write their prescriptions in readable writing but also clearly mention the doses. Sometimes the doses in the prescription are also not directed properly. Secondly, he suggested that doctors should also follow MMC norms on prescribing toxic drugs. However the drugs now a days are rather safe as compared to the times when highly allergic drugs like penicillin were prescribed. The fatality rate for such drugs too is as low as 0.5 percent but it should also be taken care of while writing away the prescription.”

Implementation under doubt

Psychiatrist Dr Sudhir Bhave believes that the MMC’s said directive is certainly a well meaning initiative but how far it will be implemented is really questionable. He deemed it necessary for any doctor to write prescription in good handwriting. He viewed that most of the times it creates complications among the patients for the wrong medication which is highly fatal at times. Again, if the patient approaches the subsequent doctor, the concerned doctor may not be able to get what was actually prescribed by previous doctor. Last but not the least, he suggested, a shabbily written prescription could also bring discomfort to the patient who might develop wrong impression about the concerned doctor. This may affect the relationship between the doctor and the patient. Dr. Bhave said, “Giving the printed prescription is the suitable option but I still doubt its feasibility.”

Written beyond recognition

Neurophysician Dr Chandrashekhar Meshram accepts the fact that sometimes the prescription not written legibly becomes the cause of concern not only for the patients but for the doctors too. “Most of the times the patients coming to me carry prescription of their old treatment which remains beyond recognition. So I have to ask the patients to bring those medicines in order to verify the course the concerned patient was actually undergoing. Generally, it happens that whatever medicines the doctors prescribe are available only in the same vicinity and irrespective of how shabbily the prescription is written, it is clearly understood by the chemist but the patients remain clueless about its name,” Dr Meshram told Nagpur Today. He added that most of the times bad handwriting leads to the problem of patients as more often the chemist could not recognize the drug name properly and ended up handing out some other medicine to the patients. General practitioners often write their prescriptions in a situation of rush and so the legibility of their handwriting affects. He said that those who write in perfectly readable and neat handwriting have no such issues but for the rest of them, the best way is to get the prescription typewritten and hand it out to the patient.