It’s a long-time joke that no one can read doctors’ handwriting. Except it’s really not a joke. Poor handwriting can lead to serious pharmaceutical errors that can lead to accidental deaths. In other words, this is serious business.
Some states require physicians to send prescriptions to pharmacies electronically, reducing the number of such errors. According to a report released last year by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), 1.5 million injuries occur each year because pharmacists and healthcare workers misread sloppy handwriting.
Google will try to come to the rescue. TechCrunch reports that at its annual Google India conference, Google announced it was working with pharmacists on a way to interpret what doctors wrote on their prescription pads. Google is developing a prototype search app that is not ready for public use at this time. It consists of taking a photo of the prescription or downloading one from a photo library.
Once the prescription image or the one downloaded from the photo library is processed, this application finds and puts in the medications written on the prescription or note from the photo library.
A Google executive introduced the technology and the company said, “It will be an assistive technology for digitizing handwritten medical documents by valuing humans in the loop, such as pharmacists, but no decision will be made solely based on the result provided by this technology.“.
It seems like the app will be used in conjunction with a pharmacist’s eyes to determine which drug is dispensed from a given script. If Google helps develop this technology, it could be a big step towards reducing the number of injuries caused by sloppy handwriting.
For the moment, this technology is at the research prototype stage and Google has not yet made a decision on its launch. Technology like this could help patients all over the world, and not just in India.