Close on the heels of the Allahabad High Court penalising three doctors for illegible handwriting in the medico-legal (MLC) reports they had drafted, the government’s policy-making NITI Aayog has said it is time to move towards computerised prescriptions and MLC drafting.
VK Paul, Member, Health, NITI Aayog, and chairman of the Medical Council of India’s Board of Governors, expressed 'deep concern and anguish' at doctors’ handwriting becoming a matter of judicial intervention.
'But one is not surprised by the Allahabad High Court fining three doctors for illegible medico-legal reports. This would have happened one day anyway when you keep writing what people cannot read. I firmly believe the solution lies in computerising the drafting of prescriptions. We should start by ensuring that medico-legal reports are computer-generated and printed by doctors in charge. This should be the beginning as legal matters are crucial.'
He said responsible transaction with patients is the doctors' most sacred duty , who should know better, and added that doctors with poor handwriting were 'incomplete professionals'.
'Expression of a doctor’s professional advice through prescription or medico-legal reports involves questions of life and death. It’s serious business. Doctors are expected to write in a way that their medical opinions are understood as these are meant to be understood. An illegible prescription or report can have devastating consequences, Mr. Paul said, adding that a shift is in order and an early debate on the matter was on.
The Indian Medical Council’s regulations require doctors to write legibly and preferably in capital letters. Rules say prescriptions should mention in detail the medicine name, salts, strength and potency, frequency and dispensing instructions clearly in capital letters. But this rule is followed more in violation than practice.
The former president of Punjab Medical Council, Dr. Gurinder Singh Grewal says some doctors are writing prescriptions in capital letters, but they are a minority. 'It is time we started mandating computerisation of prescriptions.'
State medical council leaders also acknowledge they are grappling with bad doctor handwriting for years. 'We have had complaints where the doctor who wrote the prescription was unable to read his own handwriting later. Penalties have been recommended in the past also, but computerisation is the final solution,' says Dr. Girish Tyagi, Registrar, Delhi Medical Council.