Joseph Conn's article about a study tying many errors to physicians' sloppy speech was very interesting and revealing, but comes as no surprise to me. One very important and germane factual reality was omitted from this article: There is a substantial population of foreigners in the medical profession in the U.S., and this amount is ever increasing. The overwhelming majority of these foreigners speak very poor English and have serious communication handicaps.
It follows that their charting and dictations are very miserable indeed. For example, every time I reviewed a particular colleague's operative report to make sure that all of the elements for proper coding and billing were in place, the dictation was so awful that I had to re-do it.
Interestingly enough, other countries require complete proficiency and mastery of their national language -- in addition to other credentialing requirements -- to be considered for professional practice. Quebec, our neighbor to the north, is an example.
At any rate, the problem will get worse as our profession continues to be overtaken by foreigners. This has already become an irreversible trend.
-- Modesto Fontanez, M.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery, Medical University of Ohio, Toledo