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Discussing "urgent" matters in medical paperwork

Apparently writers aren't the only ones repelled by exclamation points: In an essay on NEJM Journal Watch, the blog's editor-in-chief Paul Sax, MD, describes in bullet points why extreme punctuation and other editorial overstatements make irritating, and sometimes unnecessary, demands on doctors' time. Especially when delivered by fax.

From the piece:

  • It’s “Urgent.” Not just Urgent, but urgent!!! How do we know? Look, the word has squiggly underlining — that means it must be really important. But one might wonder why it’s so important when, as mentioned above, the care has already been given (and, for the record, the patient no longer needs their services, he’s much improved). Could it be that that the definition of “urgent” for this company differs quite substantially from a clinician’s? To a clinician, examples of “urgent” problems include a patient who is short of breath, or bleeding, or having chest pain. For this company, “urgent” means “we want to be paid as soon as possible.”

The whole post is an amusing - if maddening - read.

Via Common Health

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