Electronic Medical Records: Why Don't You Know Me?

I find it shocking that in an age where everything is done electronically, we do not have a national medical record system whereby any doctor anywhere in the country can access my medical records. There are electronic medical records but each surgery, hospital and clinic has their own programme and they cannot be accessed by anyone else. I moved to the other end of the country when I went to university and had to register with a new doctor. I was asked for my old surgery address so they could get my medical records, but was there ever any evidence that they had them? No, of course not.

For me personally, perhaps there is an argument that I should just know the regular medicine that I take. I have two asthma inhalers and often some eczema cream; I sort of know which eczema cream I use, but tend to refer to the asthma inhalers as ‘the blue one’ and ‘the brown one’ even though I know that there are several different types. But they are called RECORDS for a reason; doctors make records so that THEY have a record of the medication they’ve prescribed. Maybe this is a better example: I went to my standard Doctors Surgery at home because I needed to get some injections for my holiday. This is the only surgery I went to until the age of 18. I saw the nurse there who gave me three injections and told me that I needed to come back a week later for the second injection of a course of three. While I was there I asked for some more inhalers (and I had to tell her which ones they were). When I went back the week later the nurse looked at me blankly like you do when you think you vaguely recognise someone but don’t know who they are. She asked me what I was there for. It was the same surgery, the same room, undoubtedly the same computer system. Why didn’t she know what I was there for? I had to go back two weeks later for the third injection. Same thing happened. What was I there for? I think she even asked me which injection it was I was supposed to be having! Is it just me or is this completely unacceptable?

I don’t know if that is a reflection of the nurse’s bad recording skills or if she was just testing me or if she hadn’t been bothered to read my record, but if they can’t get in right in just one surgery how can they expect to get it right on a national scale when the circumstances are much more serious. It’s vital that a patient’s medical history is complete and up-to-date because you never know when there might just be some kind of emergency. My grandma has to go into hospital to have an operation and was planning on having it done privately. Aside from all the various problems she seems to be having with the NHS hospital communicating with the private hospital and the surgeon, they suspected she might have a heart murmur and wanted to check how serious it was. The next day she had a phone call saying that everything was fine; operation as planned. The following day she had a phone call saying that when she gave them her medical history she hadn’t mentioned that she’d had a previous heart murmur and so they were going to have to re-schedule the op and move it to the general hospital rather than the private hospital. Now, aside from the fact that my mum says at no point did they ask for a medical history, you’d think that they would have the medical records of an elderly woman, and not expect her to remember what happened in an operation years and years ago.

I know that there are several reasons why people would argue that they didn’t want a unified electronic medical record system. They say that each hospital, surgery etc have their own codes and abbreviations for different things and that trying to change them and get them into one system would be extremely difficult, but people implement new systems into businesses all the time; it can be a hassle for a while but once it’s done it must make things easier for them. Another argument that I’ve heard is about patients complaining that they don’t want their names/medical history etc etc on some big database, especially when you hear so often in the news about bureaucrats leaving important documents, laptops on trains for example, but to be honest I don’t care if some hacker finds out that I have asthma. I mean, I would rather that no-one in that position of responsibility was leaving confidential files lying around, but I think I’d be prepared to take that risk if it meant that all doctors had access to my medical records and I could be confident that they were giving me the right medication. If people don't want their medical records avaliable to everyone then maybe they should be given the option to take them off and they can be responsible for knowing all the medication they've ever taken!

When I was 15 I started getting eczema on my hands. It was very bad and got infected quite quickly. It was coming up to my exams and the doctor gave me eczema cream and told me that it could be stressed related. I can tell you, I wasn’t stressed until I started getting the eczema. I couldn’t clench my fists, often I couldn’t write properly and I was so worried about getting it infected again that I wore ridiculous gloves half the time. While sometimes it was better than other times it basically didn’t go away until last year (I was 21). I went to the doctor numerous times, but because I was seeing lots of different doctors from two different surgeries, I don’t think I ever saw the same one twice and they never knew what I had tried before. Every time I went I had to tell the doctor what I’d tried previous and what hadn’t work. I didn’t always remember and I’m sure over the course of the six years I was prescribed the same things more than once that did no good for me. Ideally I would have gone to the same doctor every time, but I couldn’t. But my medical records should be second best to that. It shouldn’t really matter which doctor I’d been to because they should have had all the information they needed from my medical records!

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Spacey Gracey 6 years ago from Essex, UK

On a related note - my Dad was once stuck arguing with a receptionist in A&E that he wasn't who he says he was because the date of birth and town didn't match their computer records - way to hard to consider that our entire county might have more than one person with that name :)

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