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Doctor handwriting

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Doctor handwriting is a phenomenon observed in medical practitioners, in that medical practitioners write in unreadable ways.[1][2]


There are several theories about origins of doctors writing in a hard to read way. Some sources say doctors need to write too much during training and at work, leading to bad handwriting.[3][4][5][6][7] Some other sources say that doctors do away with such handwriting because medical documents are readable by medical professionals, and are not intended to be read by patients.[8]


Standard medical notation[edit]

Historically, physicians raised in Europe-influenced schools used Latin words and abbreviations to convey the entire prescription to the pharmacist. Today, many of the abbreviations are still widely used and must be understood to interpret prescriptions. At other times, even though some of the individual letters are illegible, the position of the legible letters and length of the word is sufficient to distinguish the medication based on the knowledge of the pharmacist. When in doubt, pharmacists call the medical practitioner. Some jurisdictions have legislated legible[how?] prescriptions (e.g. Florida).[9]

Computerised recognition of doctor handwriting[edit]

There are numerous studies to read doctor handwriting automatically.[10][11][12]


Electronic prescription alleviates the need of illegible prescription. Computerised health information systems eliminate the need of doctors writing out many reports by hand.[13]


There are some sources defending the position that bad handwriting of doctors is not a specific phenomenon, instead being a variation in handwriting like everyone else.[14][15]


Misread doctor handwriting will cause mistreatment. There are many deaths caused by such misunderstanding of illegible doctor handwriting.[1][16][17]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "APPEAL NO. 991681 Texas v. Dr. K" (PDF). Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  2. "Decoding physician's handwriting can mean life or death". ottawacitizen.com. 2012-11-23.
  3. "Why is doctors' handwriting so bad? - Quora". www.quora.com. Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  4. Kuku, Kayote. "Doctors' Handwriting; Why we write the way we write". Retrieved 2020-04-14.
  5. "Why Doctors Have Bad Handwriting! - Real Doctor Explains". DocUnlock. 2019-03-12. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. Pareek, Shabdita (2016-11-26). "Ever Wondered Why All Doctors Have A Terrible Handwriting? This Doctor Has A Valid Reason". www.scoopwhoop.com. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  7. "Why do doctors in India have bad handwriting? - Quora". www.quora.com. Retrieved 2020-04-16.
  8. Borcherds, Marvin (2014-11-28). "Why is doctors' handwriting so bad?". Health24. Retrieved 2020-04-15.
  9. "456.42 Written prescriptions for medicinal drugs". Florida Statutes.
  10. Dhande, Pritam S.; Kharat, Reena (August 2017). "Character Recognition for Cursive English Handwriting to Recognize Medicine Name from Doctor's Prescription". 2017 International Conference on Computing, Communication, Control and Automation (ICCUBEA): 1–5. doi:10.1109/ICCUBEA.2017.8463842. ISBN 978-1-5386-4008-1.
  11. Roy, Partha Pratim; Bhunia, Ayan Kumar; Das, Ayan; Dhar, Prithviraj; Pal, Umapada (2017-06-15). "Keyword spotting in doctor's handwriting on medical prescriptions". Expert Systems with Applications. 76: 113–128. doi:10.1016/j.eswa.2017.01.027. ISSN 0957-4174.
  12. Chen, Qi; Gong, Tianxia; Li, Linlin; Tan, Chew Lim; Pang, Boon Chuan (November 2010). "A Medical Knowledge Based Postprocessing Approach for Doctor's Handwriting Recognition". 2010 12th International Conference on Frontiers in Handwriting Recognition: 45–50. doi:10.1109/ICFHR.2010.121.
  13. Robaina Bordón, J. M.; Morales Castellano, E.; López Rodríguez, J. F.; Sosa Henríquez, M. (December 2014). "La letra de médico". Revista de Osteoporosis y Metabolismo Mineral. 6 (4): 122–126. doi:10.4321/S1889-836X2014000400008. ISSN 1889-836X.
  14. "Legibility of doctors' handwriting is as good (or bad) as everyone else's". CiteSeerX
  15. Harralson, Heidi H. (2014-09-25). Developments in Handwriting and Signature Identification in the Digital Age. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-52288-1. Search this book on Amazon.com Logo.png
  16. Caplan, Jeremy (2007-01-15). "Cause of Death: Sloppy Doctors". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  17. Charatan, Fred (1999-12-11). "Medical errors kill almost 100000 Americans a year". BMJ : British Medical Journal. 319 (7224): 1519. ISSN 0959-8138. PMC 1117251. PMID 10591699.

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