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It’s high time for the NHS to wake up to modern day IT

11 Jan 2013

The poor and inconsistent state of electronic care records in this country is one of the UK's great mysteries and a great frustration of mine.

Recently the government said that it is to reveal a new record system in 2015, yet many questions about its implementation and cost still remain to be answered, casting doubt on the whole project's feasibility

The creation of a national integrated electronic health care record system is seemingly an impossible task, despite the billions of pounds spent and the many years of IT effort to produce a fit for purpose solution.

I wonder how the NHS continues to get away with such a shoddy set-up when the general public is becoming increasingly accustomed to sophisticated modern day technology, giving them instant access to information at their fingertips. Sure there have been rants made by numerous members of the press, but the public generally seems apathetic.

It's not like I have this passion to view my health records every single day, but I want to be able to access them when I need to. I'd really like to be put in charge of my own care records, but of course, as a recent NHS hospital told me, this is not possible as members of the public cannot be trusted with such important responsibilities.

Of course, it's also not viable. As a UK patient, I do not have a comprehensive health care record of past medical data, but multiple records stored in many different places.

The problem lay with IT. Departments in many hospitals cannot easily share information with other departments, which means if you have a brain scan in Accident and Emergency, the brain surgeon you visit at a later date in the same hospital's neurology department may not have a copy.

Worse still is the majority of hospitals cannot share information with other hospitals. Complications may occur with a woman's first pregnancy in one hospital, but whether these problems will be known to staff in the delivery room of the next hospital the woman attends for her second pregnancy is anyone's guess.

Sure a woman could possibly take notes during her complicated birth delivery (while under anaesthetic and a range of different drugs), and the patient with a brain tumour could ask (when he regains consciousness) to make a quick photocopy of his scan, but generally when people are in hospital their health records are not the first thing on their minds. It's often only at a later date does access to these records become so valuable.

Ideally we all have parents that note down the immunisations we are given as kids, the antibiotics that have caused us allergies, and the like. But not all parents are that organised, and unfortunately some parents simply don't care.

It's surprising that a nation now suffering from health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and childhood allergies is happy to remain so ill-informed about the state of its health. At the moment health records are still intended for the eyes of NHS staff only, and when they are shared with patients it's often in paper form.

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