Recommendations for terminology, abbreviations and symbols used in medicines documentation

One of the major causes of medication errors is the use of error-prone abbreviations and dose expressions. To promote patient safety, the Recommendations for Terminology, Abbreviations and Symbols used in Medicines Documentation sets out principles for safe, clear and consistent terminology for medicines, and safe terms, abbreviations and dose designations for medicines.

Abbreviations and terminology as safety issues

Medication errors are one of the most commonly reported clinical incidents in acute health care settings. Rates of serious harm are low, but many medication errors are preventable.

An abbreviation, term or symbol used by a prescriber may mean something quite different to the person interpreting the medicine order.

Abbreviations that appear unclear, ambiguous or incomplete may be misunderstood. When combined with other words or numerals, it may appear as something completely unintended. These terminologies are error‑prone and are a critical patient safety issue.