Abbreviations have been a part of the culture of healthcare practice for a long time. Changing ingrained habits like relying on abbreviations can be challenging but our patients are worth the effort.
The first step in the change process is making a case for why a new way of communicating without using abbreviations is needed. Create a proposal for a change initiative that relates what is known about the problem of abbreviation use in healthcare from the literature to what is shown to be the specific problem in your organization.
Getting the right people involved in your abbreviation initiative is essential for success. You will need senior leadership support, champions in different disciplines and departments, and frontline providers who will be asked to change their habits of communicating.
Time spent planning will pay off during the implementation phase. Use a structured approach, such as the model for improvement, to plan your change strategy. Establish a desired outcome for the initiative, choose measures to determine if change represents an improvement, and design strategies that will influence how abbreviations are used.
A combination of intervention strategies is typically needed to reduce abbreviation use. If the response is inadequate, try a higher leverage strategy from the hierarchy of effectiveness.
Do you know someone who is trying to reduce the use of abbreviations? Share this toolkit and spread the word about the importance of 'writing it out' for patient safety.