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Mind Your Language Please!

Recently I came across a clinic letter that had the patient’s problem typed as “Balanitis EROTICA obliterans”Reading the typo error and sharing it with the nursing staff instantly converted a serious clinic into one where everyone started to recall their funny typo encounters. Having come across similar typos in the past, I thought about sharing it with this blog. Examples such as abnormal lover (liver) function test, digital erectile (rectal) examination, examination of the penis revealed that he is circus sized (circumcised), testes were distended (descended), he does have a lot of flabulets (phleboliths), among many others are often found in the clinic letters. There are others who have also shared their experiences on the web that are worth a read for a hearty laugh.

Gone are those good old days when you had your own secretary who would type your clinic and theatre dictations. Nowadays, the dictation is electronically transferred to a Medical Transcription service across the globe to somewhere in Asia or South Africa. The letter gets typed and medically qualified personnel correct any obvious mistakes and the Word document is electronically sent across to your secretary.

These kinds of typo errors have also emerged in the modern day smartphones. These ‘extra’ smart phones have an application wherein auto-correction takes place simultaneously as you type. On many occasions these changes go unnoticed and can lead to messages that can be hilarious. Indeed, there is a collection of mishaps due to auto-correction at this site.

On a serious note, typographical errors can be dangerous and detrimental to patients. Common examples quoted by this news article include “known malignant” instead of “non-malignant” and “urological” instead of “neurological”. Indeed, a patient’s death in the US due to wrong insulin dosage typed on the clinic letter led to a successful claim by the plaintiff.

If you have come across any funny transcription errors or anything more serious, please share it in the discussion.

Amrith Rao is a Consultant Urological Surgeon at Wexham Park Hospital, Wexham, UK.
Twitter: @urorao

4 replies
  1. Rehana Surka
    Rehana Surka says:

    Interesting typo errors that makes life worth laughing! At time costing huge money if legally challenged!

  2. Conrad Bishop
    Conrad Bishop says:

    Amrith, it’s not just spelling typos. If only I had a dollar for every time I have been woken up at night and asked to come in to see someone who has had a stroke….

  3. John W Davis
    John W Davis says:

    Then there are less typographical errors and more context. Old classics like:

    “The patient has been depressed ever since seeing me in 1993.”

    “The patient left the emergency room alive. But without permission.”

    “Rectal examination revealed a normal sized thyroid”

    “While in ER, she was examined, X-rated and sent home.”

    “She has no rigors or shaking chills, but her husband states she was very hot in bed last night.”

    See also–

  4. Stacy Loeb
    Stacy Loeb says:

    Another major concern with electronic medical records is the use of copy/paste. Despite warnings against it, there are significant time pressures for today’s physicians in the face of declining reimbursement. I have seen several notes that clearly copied earlier exam findings, medications, or inconsistent information that no longer makes sense. Once there is one discrepancy, it calls the entire note into question and creates confusion between providers.

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