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The waiting game

Panic not, we can get Jeremy to copy those GP records


I really thought my inner dinosaur had been struck by its metaphorical meteorite long ago. But the realisation that new data regulations mean we’ll have to provide copies of records gratis – a colossal amount of unfunded work – has triggered a train of thought revealing my still-beating Jurassic heart.

In short, I want to go back to paper records. Remember them? Actual, tangible notes we ‘owned’ and could mould into something useful, rather than the amorphous, communal, virtual mess of a data dump that we have now?

What has happened to electronic records is a fantastic example of the law of unintended consequences. They are supposed to have evolved into exemplars of patient history, communication and shared care. Instead, as with life in general, we seem to have sacrificed clarity for quantity, resulting in medical records that are at best dense in all senses, and at worst detrimental to all concerned.

This shared digital nightmare screws QOF, pollutes medical summaries and gives me work-related index finger disorder as I scroll desperately through innumerable, endless, template-based entries of complete and utter crud until I eventually locate something pertinent and useful, ie my last consultation.

Which all sounds rather doctor-centred, but isn’t. After all, back in the day, medical records were like a wise whisper in your ear, highlighting the relevant and pointing out clues. Now they’re a roomful of fools shouting irrelevances so loudly that you can’t think straight. And drowning out the signal with too much noise can’t be good for patients.

All this, and soon we’ll have the responsibility of copying, redacting and processing these digital monsters for nothing. Well, that reminds me.

Even when I had that sense of ownership, the medical records actually belonged to the Secretary of State. Now I don’t, I’ve decided they belong to him even more. And he’s welcome.

He may, ironically, be the only person not to have a ‘record share’, but we can fix that. So, Jeremy, over to you. I’ve got 78 requests for copies of records for you. And it’s not like you’re busy.

Dr Tony Copperfield is a jobbing GP in Essex


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Readers' comments (10)

  • Excellent point Tony. I believe that Shona Robison owns ours up north.
    Time to develop a template letter for the expected surge in legal requests.
    Do you think when asked to remove 3rd party information, Jeremy will scour the notes looking for mention of Liberal Democrats?
    He ain't the sharpest tool and might need a little direction.

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  • Patients may have seen up to eleven noctors before they get to see me, to get sorted out. Its a nightmare trying find the errors, omissions and mismanagement in the previous clinical entries so I don't caught up as collateral damage in any subsequent medicolegal wrangles. Emis seems to be the worst for this. Ok if you are single handed but the system is not designed for any complexity.

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  • Ah, back in the day. Where "curation of information" from the hospital required a receptionist with the origami skills to fold an A4 letter into the perfect size to put in a Lloyd-George envelope....itself perfectly sized to fit in a Boer War era military dispatch box.

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  • I am jealous of these people who must have much time on their hands to write a thesis with each interaction with a patient. How did the NHS manage without these people?

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    watchdoc.. see patient / write thesis / write reflective thesis for appraisal ...
    action.... advised to see own gp

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  • Doctors are not helping by agreeing to more paper work to sustain more "guidance", "scrutiny" and more useless rules to make the job impossible.

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  • Hope brexit can put an end to another European waste of time!!!!

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  • The most annoying thing for me about medical records is that anything can designated a medical problem, there for ever, and because of the restarting feature, patients can have multiple entries for the same problem, corresponding with each time they get seen about the problem -hence we get patients with an active problem list including 'failed encounter', 'patient informed of test result' 'not well' interspersed with 27 'Type 2 Diabetes mellitus' and eight 'total hip replacement' suggesting that the patient is a spider.

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  • “Patient is a spider” brilliant! Records are indeed getting less rather than more useful.

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  • I am lucky enough to work in health IT with some really talented people, some of whom specialise in designing user interfaces. But when they see the records we have to deal with, they just shake their heads in disbelief at how awful they are.
    I just saw a patient this morning who is a software designer - she just laughed at the electronic record I am using - and its a market leader!
    It's not the electronic part, it's the design and usability that's so bad.

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