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Am J Manag Care. 2003 Aug;9(8):548-52.

Analysis of factors associated with increased prescription illegibility: results from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, 1990-1998.

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Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre (Sunnybrook campus), Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



To estimate the incidence of, and the variables affecting, illegible drug prescriptions in the United States.


Illegible notations of medications (ie, drug mentions) on the patient record form used for data collection in the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey from 1990 to 1998 were used as a proxy for the incidence of illegible prescriptions in the United States.


The average incidence of illegible mentions was 1.44%. Increased age of patient, female sex, urban practice setting, increased number of diagnoses and prescriptions written during the visit and seeing a family physician or internist were associated with an increased probability of at least 1 illegible drug mention.


Distinct characteristics are associated with a higher incidence of illegible prescriptions. Multiple diagnoses and an increased number of prescriptions, both of which contribute to the complexity of a patient visit, are especially likely to be associated with at least 1 illegible prescription per visit. Physicians need to recognize factors contributing to illegible prescriptions to maintain high standards of care.

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