Are you living in an abbreviated world in your dental practice?

Denise Ciardello.
Denise Ciardello.

When I was growing up, the only acronyms I remember hearing were the dreaded IRS and CHiPs because of the TV show (oh… I guess TV too). Then I married a naval aviator and my life became all about acronyms.

When he told me we were PCSing to Washington, that meant we were moving from Florida (permanent change of station). An increase in BAH meant that we were getting a raise (basic allowance for housing), and TDY meant my husband was going to be deployed for a weekend up to six months (temporary duty).

There were acronyms that most people know: PT, ROTC, SEALs, VA, CO, AWOL, DoD, and, of course, we all know file 13 is the garbage can. There were acronyms that were used in titles, like Dr., Mrs., Mr., DDS, MD, that we were used to seeing. As time went on, our world began using acronyms for just about everything, including the following: 

  • NASA
  • AIDS
  • YOLO
  • EOD
  • ADHD
  • AARP
  • GIF
  • OMG

Most of us are pretty familiar with these acronyms and know what they mean; although with full transparency, during my research for this article, I learned what the letters in SNAFU actually stood for.

Along came texting and things got more complicated. I can receive a text and literally have to look up the meaning of what was sent to me. I am guilty of overusing LOL because I find humor in so many things. However, today I received TLOLBAH! I see my favorite LOL, but what is the rest? I had to GTS (Google that stuff) this and found that it means "typing laughing out loud but actually hysterically crying."

Now I find that many of my texting acronyms have been renewed, such as the following:

  • Old: NC (Netflix and chill) New: SIRJWTWN (Seriously, I really just want to watch Netflix)
  • Old: ILY (I love you) New: ILYOP (I love your online profile)
  • Old: BFF (Best friends forever) New: BFUIFSB (Best friends until I find someone better)
  • Old: FWB (Friend with benefits) New: CU (Consciously uncoupled)
  • Old: JK (Just kidding) New: JKATS (Just kidding although totally serious)
  • Old: IMHO (In my humble opinion) New: IMHOWITR (In my humble opinion, which is totally right)
  • Old: BRB (Be right back) New: OJCBRBPA (On juice cleanse, be right back; peeing again)

I can deal with the acronyms, even though I may have to GTS some of them. (You know that GTS also stands for Global Team Solutions?)

English, I’ve been told, is the hardest language to learn, yet it is taught in most foreign schools because it is such a powerful language around the world. It is considered tough because of the challenge of spelling certain words whose pronunciations are very different -- for example, colonel or zucchini -- words that have one spelling but multiple meanings, or words that have the same pronunciation but different meanings, such as stationary versus stationery.

Now our beautiful language has taken a new hit: shortening the words. Laboratory is lab, legitimate is legit, and rehabilitation has been shortened to rehab. I guess that's acceptable since those are long words. Yet now I hear words that are shortened and I wonder if we are getting lazy in our speech: convo, celeb, sus, bro, delish, fab, mag, prob, uni, vid, vocab, to name a few. Does vet mean someone who was in the military or an animal doctor?

At this point you are likely asking, "What does any of this have to do with anything besides a random trip through thoughts in my head?" Actually, quite a lot when you realize what is going on in our workforce today.

Most acronyms or abbreviations are not an acceptable form of professional language. I am absolutely appalled at the letters, emails, and texts I see that are sent to patients from dental offices. Then I take a look at the clinical notes and ponder the lawsuit that is waiting to happen. WNL: within normal limits or we never looked?

Thank goodness for spell check to save us from looking as though we never finished sixth-grade English. However, the degradation of our language is having a negative effect on our brains. I am witnessing workers who seem to live and work in an abbreviated world. They are working in just this second without considering the next step.

Proactive does not have an acronym or an abbreviation and does not seem to be highly regarded by people as a way to be professional or to prevent future mistakes. I see tasks that are completed halfway, and the half that didn't get addressed was the most important part of the project.

Case in point: I was recently in an office where it was one admin employee's responsibility to verify insurance, which she did and put the insurance information into that portion of the patient's account complete with numerous notes about the plan, including the fact that it was an health maintenance organization (HMO) plan. A treatment plan was created and presented to the patient. The work was completed and a claim was submitted.

Here's the shocker ... it was denied. It was an HMO plan and this is not an HMO office! This person knew what this meant, and yet did not take the next step to remove the insurance from the patient account nor did she explain the situation to the patient. The office now has a patient who is not happy, a doctor who is expected to write off the insurance portion of the treatment, and an admin employee who is still not taking responsibility.

Abbreviations can be good and acronyms can be fun. However, I have yet to find either to be appropriate in the dental office environment. We should always remain pros -- professional, productive, and proactive with our patients and in our legal clinical notes. Save those fun, casual convos for your buds, BFFs and kids. Next rant article:  grammar, emojis, and punctuation. TTFN.

Denise Ciardello is co-founder of Global Team Solutions, a practice management consulting firm. Ciardello’s book, The Human Side of Business, is a guide to building a cohesive team while creating a successful, productive practice. She can be contacted at [email protected].

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Page 1 of 176
Next Page