I’ve declared my hand when it comes to electronic health records – I think they’re a good idea, I think we use security as an excuse for the health sector lagging behind in this area and I believe they’d make my life simpler.
Now I see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The NHS are currently running a survey to consult patients on what features they’d like to be included in any patient accessible electronic patient record. There’s the usual stuff – access to test results, access to your health records, ordering repeat prescriptions online – nothing ground breaking but all good stuff that to be honest we should have done years ago, so I’m very supportive of the concept.
I am a bit nervy about this though. It smacks of a consultation aimed at designing a super-dooper system (a good thing) but I’m yet to see much evidence of people addressing the behavioural change needed to implement such a system. Let me explain…
We’re not trying to split the atom here, many electronic patient record systems exist already. Indeed, I can upload all my CGMS and pump data onto the interweb and give my Dr a secure password to log on and view them at any time. I’ve never used the feature because unless it’s printed out my Dr doesn’t look at it! The technology really isn’t the issue.
What we really need is to drive a change in behaviour. A change where it becomes the norm for patients to interact with their healthcare team online and have access to their own health records whenever they want or need it.
This is by no means a damning indictment of the whole medical profession. There are many clinicians out there who will correspond by email, will access patient data online and who see the internet as a valuable tool rather than an evil terror. But that’s yet to become the norm. My old GP had a computer in his office, it was in the corner acting as a stand for a plant and a bunch of drug company leaflets. I’m sad to say in my experience that has been close to the norm.
I’ve completed the NHS survey and in the comments section I’ve talked about the need to ensure that we get clinicians on board with the project. We need to spend time and effort looking at how this will change the way people do their jobs, day to day. Otherwise, we’ll have a nice shiny new electronic patient records system with no meaningful usage. If that’s going to be the case lets save the money and I’ll stick to managing my diabetes results with Excel, it’s cheap and it works.
The survey is really quick so if you’re an NHS patient please take a minute to submit your views. If you’re not an NHS patient (or you’ve completed the survey and just can’t resist talking about it some more) let’s have your thoughts below.