What Does THAT Mean? – Breaking the Code

Everyday we are faced with a “code” of some sort, no matter what area of law we work in. It may be a special abbreviation used to denote an expert’s credentials, or shorthand for an engineering term. Or even a specialized term we can not find defined in a traditional dictionary. It may be a shortened spelling of a word, an abbreviation. Or, it may be an acronym.

An acronym is a kind of abbreviation. The word comes from Greek, meaning heads of names. Acronyms are usually made from the capitalized initials of the words it represents, for example FBI is an acronym for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Occasionally, for special reasons, the second letter of a word is used, as in XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Sometimes more than one letter is included for a word, to avoid ambiguity or because they form an existing abbreviation, as in SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander, Europe).

Contrary to what some sources say, acronyms do not have to be pronounceable words (for example FBI is spelled out when spoken, whereas NASA is not). Some sources use the word initialism to refer to the spelled acronyms.

The medical and billing records of the client are filled with specialized abbreviations and acronyms that may provide crucial information related to the client’s claim. Even data reports referencing chemicals, specialized tests, and laboratory results come in “code”.

What is one to do when faced with the challenge of the “code”? There are various resources available on the internet with more arriving daily. I have made an attempt to summarize some of the various resources available.

If you are not able to “crack” the “code”, it is advised you ask the entity providing the data where the “code” is found with a key or list of approved codes to enable you to clearly translate the document.

Be aware that some abbreviations are regional, with differing abbreviations actually meaning the same thing. For example in medicine TKO and KVO mean the same thing, to run an IV at a rate that is just fast enough to overcome vascular resistance and keep the vein open (TKO = to keep open, KVO = keep vein open).

Below are various sites available to assist in “breaking the code”.

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