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Can bad handwriting cause medical errors?

There are many jokes about bad doctor’s handwriting, but when that same handwriting leads to mistakes and errors, it becomes less funny.

According to Stethoscope Magazine, bad handwriting can lead to various issues that result in patient injury and death.


When doctors handwrite orders, they may be hard to read. It is too easy for other medical personnel that needs to use those notes to misunderstand.

This can lead to incorrect treatments, ignored orders or other issues where someone did not understand what was written on your charts. If the doctor is not also communicating verbally the orders and information in your chart, then errors can occur.

Medication errors

The most common issue with bad handwriting is errors with prescriptions and medications. Because they require exactness, a medication mistake can cause serious problems.

From not being able to read the actual medication name to issues with dosage directions, sloppy handwriting can put people’s lives at risk when it comes to prescriptions.


The doctor may be unable to read his or her handwriting, which only complicated issues. Since doctors may see many patients in a short time, he or they may not remember the patient or specific case. It can delay treatment and lead to more costs for you if you have to return to the doctor because he or she did not write out the information from your last visit.

Thankfully, most notes and prescriptions are done through electronic means these days. The move to electronic records has greatly helped to reduce such errors and no doubt saved lives.