Acronyms: Can’t live with them and can’t live without them

July 26, 2010

Medical acronyms are intended to boost efficiency. The advantages of brevity should be weighed against the possibility of crypticness (making the communication harder for others to understand) and ambiguity (having more than one possible interpretation). In other words, a smart communicator uses good shortcuts but makes sure that other people will understand what he or she means.

Picture this: several decades ago there was a young devastatingly beautiful girl who entered into the arena of medical management. Imagine her surprise when acronyms were introduced to her life! At first her thoughts were, “OMG (oh my gosh). Is it contagious and what are the symptoms?” Well it’s not terminal but it is essential in medicine.

Medical Acronyms are intended to boost efficiency as long as they are used intelligently. The advantages of brevity should be weighed against the possibilities of crypticness (making the communication harder for others to understand) and ambiguity (having more than one possible interpretation). In other words, a smart communicator uses good shortcuts, but makes sure that other people will understand what he or she means.

For your enjoyment, I have compiled a list of acronyms that many of you use on a daily basis. Of course, there are those we wished we had never heard of, as well:

ACC American College of Cardiology
ACR American College of Radiology
AFROC Association of Freestanding Radiation Oncology Centers
AHA American Heart Association
AHRQ [HHS’] Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
AMA American Medical Association
AMP Average manufacturer price
AOA American Osteopathic Association
ASC Ambulatory surgical center
ASP Average sales price
ASRT American Society of Radiologic Technologists
ASTRO American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
ATA American Telemedicine Association
BBA Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (Pub. L. 105-33)
BBRA [Medicare, Medicaid and State Child Health]
BN Budget neutrality
CAH Critical access hospital
CAHEA Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation
CF Conversion factor
CFR Code of Federal Regulations
CLFS Clinical laboratory fee schedule
CMHC Community mental health center
CMP Civil money penalty
CMS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
CNS Clinical nurse specialist
CPEP Clinical Practice Expert Panel
CPT [Physicians'] Current Procedural Terminology
CRT Certified respiratory therapist
CSW Clinical social worker
DHS Designated health services
DME Durable medical equipment
DNP Doctor of Nursing Practice
EDI Electronic data interchange
ESRD End-stage renal disease
FDA Food and Drug Administration (HHS)
FFS Fee-for-service
FR Federal Register
GAF Geographic adjustment factor
GAO General Accounting Office
GPCI Geographic practice cost index
HCPAC Health Care Professional Advisory Committee
HCPCS Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System
HHPPS Home Health Prospective Payment System
HHA Home health agency
HHRG Home health resource group
HHS [Department of] Health and Human Services
HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (Pub. L. 104-191)
HOPD Hospital outpatient department
HPSA Health Professional Shortage Area
HRSA Health Resources Services Administration (HHS)
IDTF Independent diagnostic testing facility
IPPS Inpatient prospective payment system
IRS Internal Revenue Service
IWPUT Intra-service work per unit of time
MedPAC Medicare Payment Advisory Commission
MP Malpractice
MPPR Multiple procedure payment reduction
MQSA Mammography Quality Standards Act of 1992 (Pub. L. 102-539)
NCD National Coverage Determination
NDC National drug code
NISTA National Institute of Standards and Technology Act
NP Nurse practitioner
NPI National Provider Identifier
NPP Nonphysician practitioner
NRC Nuclear Regulatory Commission
OBRA Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act OIG Office of Inspector General
OPPS Outpatient prospective payment system
PA Physician assistant
PC Professional component
PE Practice expense
PECOS Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System
PERC Practice Expense Review Committee
PFS Physician Fee Schedule
PLI Professional liability insurance
POC Plan of care
PPS Prospective payment system
PQRI Physician Quality Reporting Initiative
PRA Paperwork Reduction Act
RVU Relative value unit
SBA Small Business Administration
SGR Sustainable growth rate
SNF Skilled nursing facility
TC Technical Component
TIN Tax identification number

With all this acronym mania today, such as TTE (texting, tweeting and emailing) this will affect the future, for example: we’ll use our initials instead of our given names, because after all, it’s all about efficiencies and brevity.

Picture this: a much older (but still devastating beautiful woman) walking with her walker down the hallway of the SNF pauses to hear from one of the many men (leaning next to their walkers) swooning after her: “Hey DLB HRU HAU having DNR with me ASAP in the cafeteria and maybe some H&K for desert?” DLB pauses and responds, “OMGYG2BK”!

Good-bye everyone and do not let it happen to you.Ms. Snyder is a certified professional coder and corporate director of coding for Zotec Partners.