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The use of abbreviations in ophthalmologic correspondence with general practitioners

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Background Acronyms and abbreviations are playing an increasing role in the medical vernacular. Although many specialists frequently use shortened terms to accelerate communication in their letters, not all primary healthcare doctors fully comprehend such terms. Any misunderstanding in the interpretation of these abbreviations could have serious consequences upon patient care.

Aim The aim of this study was to look at the general practitioners' (GPs') understanding of terms commonly mentioned by ophthalmologists in their outpatient correspondence.

Method The study was based upon a healthcare survey model. A healthcare survey questionnaire detailing 12 acronyms in common usage by ophthalmologists was sent to 50 GPs in inner-city London with a view to the respondents explaining what they understood by the mentioned acronyms.

Results Thirty-two (64%) questionnaires were returned fully completed within two weeks; 63% of all the responses regarding the meaning of the acronyms were incorrect or left blank. Five (4.69%) of the responses were incorrectly explained, and only 37% of the total responses were correctly defined.

Conclusions The study suggested a degree of misunderstanding between the ophthalmologists and the GPs with reference to some of the acronyms used in their letters and discharge summaries. The study presented a number of approaches that may help avoid such confusion.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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