Transcription of Prescription

A year back, during a trip to my mother’s place in Kolkata, India, I found a neatly folded bag in her cupboard. It had empty sachets of her regular medicines and a handwritten note of the timings for taking them. She explained to me that she could not understand her prescription. Hence, she used her notes and kept the empty sachets, which proved useful when she needed to re-order her medicines. I was scared to even think of the consequences of my mother taking a double dose of her diabetes medicine or skipping her blood pressure pills due to a wrong reference to her notes.

I sat down with her doctor’s prescription, the empty sachets, and the medical bills and could decode the names of her medicines.  I arranged the medicines into zip bags and wrote down the names of her tablets on a separate paper. This sheet proved helpful for few months till the doctor changed some of her medicines.  On my next visit, I found that along with the handwritten sheet, there were few additional new sachets kept in her zip bags. Every time my mother visited her doctor, she got a new prescription. Fortunately, her physiotherapist started to help with the medicines. She regularly updated the list and ensured that my mother took the correct dose.

My mother represents many of the Indian parents who stay alone and often face this situation regularly.

In India, most doctors give a handwritten prescription. Patients can refer to this sheet and buy medicines from a pharmacy of their choice.

In a recent case, a patient in India raised the issue of poor handwriting of her doctor. Out of the three medicines mentioned in her prescription, only one was legible. She had to struggle to find out the names of the other two. Sometimes the patients require a second opinion of their treatment and need to consult a different doctor. An illegible prescription cause inconvenience and confusion. 

Government hospital’s medical prescription leaves patient puzzled | lucknow | Hindustan Times – 

A few years back, a local hospital in India made it mandatory for doctors to write their prescriptions in capital letters. It was a good initiative, but not yet truly in use.

In India, today, many hospitals print the discharge summaries for their patients. The pathological labs also provide typed reports. Private practitioners are yet to enforce the practice, and poorly written medical prescription is still a big concern. For seniors who stay alone, misread prescriptions can be dangerous.

Outside India, doctors usually have their pharmacies. They issue the prescriptions directly to the pharmacists. The patients get their medicines along with the printed instructions for the dosage.
The hope is that in India also printed prescriptions will become a mandatory practice, and the system will then have fewer medical inaccuracies. Patients will be safe and confident and can keep a proper record of their treatment.

Until then, we need to solve the struggle of handwritten prescriptions. The solution can vary. A 78-years old uncle told me that he pays additional money to the pharmacist to help him with the names of the new medicines. Another elder mentioned that his doctor’s assistant transcribed his regular prescription.

It will be helpful to know how my friends handle the situation, especially for their beloved seniors.

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  • sushmita

    A genuine concern and issue in today’s world & i believe there are some countries who have given clear directives to doctors to ensure that prescriptions are clearly written or printed with details.

    When the medicine name is not legible they depend on the pharmacist’s wisdom and sometimes the dosage timings suggested are also in similar cryptic writing which a senior patient possibly can’t even remember once he steps out of the clinic.

    I was baffled when the pharmacist couldn’t read one of the medicines prescribed for my father …what do you do then !!
    And the dosage routine is mind boggling for anyone let alone our parents , so very similar to you , i put the whole list of the medicines into a simple timetable for him to know the timings of those multiple tablets in a day ..and very traditionally stuck the sheet of the refrigerator (so its in view!!).

    Its time that in India , doctors are instructed to give proper printed prescription with dosages mentioned in the same . This way not only the patient has the clarity but the doctor also has the records of medicines prescribed everytime.
    Today when everything is technogy based , getting a printed prescription should be the least expectation!!

    Till then i have put multiple alarms on my father’s phone which rings 10times a day flashing the name of the medicine he has to take everytime !!

    Necessity is the mother of invention …and we become the geniuses when its about our kid or our parent.

    • AllForSRS

      Thankyou Sushmita for sharing your experience with us. Reading handwritten prescriptions sometimes becomes very inconvenient for the patients and their families, and can result in medical errors. Many such incidents have been brought to the limelight, and let’s hope that soon the rules will become stringent.

  • Sapna

    Though it is a very serious issue in our country but with technology evolving faster than humans, giving a printed prescription should not be difficult for the Doctors.
    I have personally not faced such a problem because my mother is a modern techie person who uses her whats app to send the pictures to the pharmacist. But I don’t know what will happen if the pharmacist is also not able to read it !

    • AllForSRS

      Thankyou Sapna for sharing your views. It’s a common practice to end the prescription through WhatsApp to the pharmacist. We hope that Pharmacist is able to read the name of the medicines correctly.

  • Pooja

    Totally agree with the views presented here and written in the article. It is absolutely essential that doctor writes the prescription in legible handwriting with all the details for pharmacist to do his job properly and if possible give a typed one to avoid any hassles!
    Pharmacist must pack each medicine separately indicating ( handwritten or typed) name, dosage, EXPIRY date and any special instruction( before food / after food or how to store it etc.)

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