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Don't be fooled by the Emperor's New IT System

Dr David Turner

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NHS IT is the latest Emperor's Clothes.

The main beef I have with NHS IT is, well, it’s crap. The systems we have are painfully slow and have had so much bolted on to them over the years, that in the time from first turning your machine on to being able to use it to see patients, it would be possible to do half your day’s paperwork. WOULD BE, if all your paperwork wasn’t computerised.

IT certainly has a role in medicine, but health care is predominantly a face-to-face business, requiring all five senses. Video consultations are never going to replace real life consultations, because in reality they are never going to be much use, other than advising on skin rashes and medication queries. Using them for anything more than this regularly is a potential medico-legal minefield.

It was interesting that our current health secretary did not feel able to attend the Pulse conference in London recently, but did find the time to attend a technology conference in the same building (which he pulled out of to be replaced by the... chief executive of Babylon). His ‘thing’, of course, is technology, but he seems unable to see the limitations of the usefulness of IT in medicine in general, but general practice specifically.

However, ‘they’ (whoever they are) have deemed new technology is the only way forward and we must keep ploughing on at all cost. Matt Hancock seems to have made it his mission for more of our work to be done via video consultations. If Mr Hancock ever finds time to dip a toe in the real world, he would discover that many of our most needy patients are hearing impaired, visually impaired, have learning disabilities or are just too poor to afford a computer or too old to learn how to use one. However, I suspect that this is just me, in a minority as usual, pointing out that the Emperor is not clad in a stunning new suit, but is in fact parading his ugly fat rolls, bollock-naked in front of the masses.

Dr David Turner is a GP in North West London

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Readers' comments (5)

  • IT has increased the amount of time taken to complete a first assessment by 50%. Go back to a word document dictated to a secretary and notes where I can easily flick through to find what I need and voila; 50% more doctor time at a stroke.
    Even NHS IT staff say that IT needs to be started from scratch as it’s a mess.

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  • they are probably hoping to outsource video consultations abroad where there are more doctors.
    not sure patients will be impressed, though compared to 111,anyone with medical knowledge and common sense would be an improvement. has anyone else noticed how rarely patients actually use 111 unless truly desperate? it started with promise but patients are not happy to be 'guidelined'when they can get this themselves on line.

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  • I was particularly pleased at Dr Turner's mention of the importance of a doctor using ALL FIVE SENSES when examining a patient. It is difficult to pick up the fine details of a patient's facial expressions on a TV monitor, but this can be crucial in a diagnosis. Is the worship of technology making us sloppy?

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  • Not sure I've ever used taste in my assessment of patients (certainly since the advent of Glucostix!)

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  • please-delete-this-fucking-profile-i-cant-delete-it-in-my-account-settings

    Dominic Faux 3:32p - there's a fine line between smell and taste ..you must have met the occasional patient who smells so much you can actually taste it, granted rare but they do turn up from time to time and no amount of room spray or alco-wipe quite clears the air in time for the next lucky patient who gets to sit in the wipe down plastic 'hot seat'

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