Editorial: Abbreviation frenzy
Dr. Dee McGonigle

Citation:
McGonigle, D (June, 2006). Editorial: Abbreviation Frenzy. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 10, (2) [Online]. Available at http://ojni.org/10_2/dee.htm

As I listened to two technologically astute students bantering about their information science terms, my thoughts drifted off to nursing. Those nurses who do not know informatics quickly realize that it is an area that has a language all its own. When two informaticians begin to dialogue, outsiders can feel a bit challenged and baffled. What are they talking about? Sounds like alien snippets. Oh, are you referring to the abbreviations that roll off the tongues of the experts? At times, abbreviated terms can even stymie those “in the know.”

It seems that we cannot have a conversation without learning new abbreviated ways of communicating our technological prowess. Instead of what you see is what you get (wysiwyg), all too often, you don’t know what you don’t know (ydkwydk) or what you hear is not what you know (wyhinwyk) or what you say is what you get (wysiwyg).

As an educator, I could do some VODcasting to make sure you know how to:

When we speak of BI and look for VAP from the VAN it is not so surprising that we crunch IEs on our HPCs. Sometimes we use a DSS. At other times, we look for help from as many people as we can by using VNC, our VM or enlisting VOIP to contact the people “in the know” at the NHIN or RHIOs. Now doesn’t that make it as clear as MUD with MOO.  

If all of these abbreviations are a bit much, it should drive home the point that we need to understand each other and be able to communicate. Therefore, we must make sure that everyone knows what we are talking about. There is a great site that can help when we are stumped with an abbreviation. It is a wonderful tool -- The Biomedical Abbreviation Server -- try it out at http://abbreviation.stanford.edu/.

Abbreviation

Meaning

BI

Business Intelligence

CPOE

Computer Physician Order Entry
Computer Provider Order Entry

DSS

Decision Support System

EHR

Electronic Health Record

HPC

Handheld Personal Computer

IE

Information Element

MOO

MUD, object oriented

MUD

Multi User Dimension/Domain

NHIN

National Health Information Network

PDA

Personal Digital Assistant

POSE

Palm Operating System Emulator

RHIO

Regional Health Information Organization

VAN

Value Added Network

VAP

Value Added Process

VM

Virtual Machine

VNC

Virtual Network Computing

VOD

Video On Demand

VOIP

Voice Over Internet Protocol

Remember, even when abbreviated terms are easy for us to comprehend, they could be confusing or ambiguous to others. Always speak to the level of your listener(s) and do not try to impress colleagues.

If you are interested in The Biomedical Abbreviation Server, you can read more about it in this article:

Chang JT, Schütze H, and Altman RB (2002). Creating an Online Dictionary of Abbreviations from MEDLINE. The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 9(6): 612-20.