Doctors Write So Bad

Why Do Doctors Write So Bad?


If you have ever looked at a prescription from a doctor, you might be wondering how the pharmacist makes sense of what is written there. After all, to you it looks like nothing more than scribbles. Furthermore, it seems as though this is a common trait among all physicians. Is there a reason why doctors seemingly write so bad?

Taking Lots of Notes

The main reason why doctors have what can often be described as illegible handwriting is the amount of notetaking that they do. There is a lot of writing to be done in medical school, and most learn their own form of shorthand as they go. This notetaking continues when doctors qualify and begin working in the medical field. Everything that happens must be documented, but although many now use computers and tablets to document their day, there are those that still use a pen and paper.

It is also important to bear in mind how busy doctors are. They are usually trying to get their paperwork done in between seeing patients as quickly as possible, which means they simply don’t have the time to sit and make sure their writing is perfect.

How Do Pharmacists Understand Doctors’ Handwriting?

Although prescriptions are often hard to read for people with little to no medical expertise, pharmacists usually know exactly what the physician means. Most doctors will use a medical shorthand for dosing, and this tends to be universally understood. In terms of the medication in question, pharmacists will know which drugs are prescribed for what conditions, but if they are not exactly sure what is written on a prescription then they can ask the patient what the prescription is for. Even when two medications are similar in name, the dosing instructions will often be an indication of which one is correct. If they are in any doubt, they can always call for clarification.

What Problems Can Occur Because of Poor Handwriting?

According to the good folk at, poor handwriting from physicians can sometimes cause problems for medical coders and billers. For example, using the wrong ICD 10 codes could result in a claim form being rejected, or completely denied. This would then cause financial problems for the medical provider or the individual patient.

There are of course much more serious issues that can occur in relation to poor handwriting on a prescription. While in most cases, a pharmacist will know what medication a doctor means by checking the dosage instructions or by asking the patient what the medication is for, mistakes can happen. This could mean that a patient is given a medication that could be dangerous.

The good news is that handwritten prescriptions are rare these days, with most doctors using electronic methods and software that prints medication and dosage instruction onto special prescription templates that can then be given to the patient to take to their local drug store. In some states, doctors are required to send prescriptions to the pharmacist instead of giving the patient a handwritten slip. However, it is important to remember that even electronic prescriptions can contain mistakes. Human error can result in typos in medication names, or numbers being entered incorrectly.


Most doctors have poor handwriting because they do so much of it. It is also because they are so busy that they just don’t have time to perfect their handwriting. While handwritten prescription slips usually contain enough information for pharmacists to comprehend them, mistakes can happen. This is why electronic prescriptions are becoming much more common these days and why in some states they are mandatory.

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