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