A simplified coding method for entering the clinical details found on pathology request cards was developed. The method uses a basic four letter code, derived from the initial character of the first four words in a clinical detail, being expanded to four characters with letters from the final word if the number of words is less than four. Rules were devised to cope with common medical terminology. In excess of 90% of clinical details on request cards are readily input by clerical staff using our coding system, and 8% of clinical details are used intelligently by the computer in scheduling further tests or automatically commenting on results. A carefully designed coding system such as the one outlined above could greatly facilitate input of clinical detail without the penalty of reduced throughput.
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