Physicians' scribbles were causing problems for Stephen Lazoritz, M.D., vice president of medical affairs at Children's Hospital in Omaha, Neb.
"I was very frustrated when we looked at medical charts in peer review," he says. "Twenty people in the room couldn't read the chart. Then we looked at our medical error rate and found a good percentage of our medical errors were due to poor handwriting."
But, "being handwriting impaired myself," Lazoritz says he knew a punitive approach wouldn't work.
So he called hospital board chairman Ken Bird, a retired school superintendent, for help. When Bird stopped laughing, he got busy on Lazoritz's request: Find the 140-bed teaching hospital a penmanship master. Enter retired elementary school teacher Katy Adams, hired to give private lessons in the offices of offending physicians.
The results: The poorest scribe on the staff, post-Adams, was given an improvement award by nurses on his unit. "Now he's a born-again penman," says Lazoritz.