Editorial: Abbreviation frenzy
Dr. Dee McGonigle

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/.




Business Intelligence


Computer Physician Order Entry
Computer Provider Order Entry


Decision Support System


Electronic Health Record


Handheld Personal Computer


Information Element


MUD, object oriented


Multi User Dimension/Domain


National Health Information Network


Personal Digital Assistant


Palm Operating System Emulator


Regional Health Information Organization


Value Added Network


Value Added Process


Virtual Machine


Virtual Network Computing


Video On Demand


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.