Medical terminology transcription errors ‘putting patients’ lives at risk’

Transcription errorsMedical terminology transcription errors could be putting patients lives at risk, because of a growing number of cash-strapped hospitals sending medical notes abroad to save money, Unison warned today.

The union has compiled a dossier showing that 21 NHS trusts are piloting the outsourcing of confidential patient information to India and South Africa, which are then sent back to the UK and added to patients’ individual records.

One Unison member who has worked as a medical secretary for 16 years stressed the importance of accuracy in writing up patient notes, which she explained could easily become a “life and death” issue.

The member, who did not wish to be named, works at a Southampton hospital. She said medical terminology mistakes over the term ‘hypo” and “hyper” had already been made by overseas staff who were nowhere near the doctor concerned to clarify his dictation.

While hypo refers to a lack (eg hypoglycaemic – low sugar levels) hyper means having too much of something (hyperglycaemic, excessively high sugar levels) – and confusion over the two terms can have fatal consequences if mistreated.

Other medical terminology training mistakes included writing “known malignant” instead of “non-malignant”, “urological” instead of “neurological” and “ectomy” instead of “octomy”.

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