So you think that a country that can put pig genes in people could do filing correctly right?

Wrong.

As myself, The Ex-Expat, and some people in the DomPost can attest, the problem of very poorly integrated medical records is a very real one for New Zealanders. As it stands there is so little integration that I’m often required to wait for months for records to be transferred between hospitals, it even takes a month for a record to travel within Wellington Hospital, and I keep my own log so that I can easily remember when different events occur.

Basically, the system doesn’t work. Information transfer in “the medical system” is a joke, and “customers” (or what they used to call patients) are all too frequently let down. It has been my extremely good luck to have an uncle who is a cardiologist and is able to collate all the relevant facts and give me something like a useful summary of where my health is at (side note: health not so bad, just some unusual physiology that makes life difficult sometimes).

Recognising that the system doesn’t work, and that making it work is a Sisyphean task that could bankrupt the nation, we need a cheap and reliable* solution. Also, health policy doesn’t seem to be on the radar for this election, so I think I can chat away safely. If it does become discussed in the next few days, then, well, I guess I’m just an originator.

I can’t take credit for this idea, but what Dave Snowden said has been applied in [insert country here] is that medical records are transferred for safe-keeping to the real owner of those records, the patient. The basis of this idea is relatively simple, the person who has the greatest interest in the health and well-being of the patient is… the patient. Consequently the safest place for medical records is with that person. The trick of course is how to get the records across, and how to keep them safe.

There are three issues in there. First of all is the problem of loss of records. If the individual loses their records then all the records could be lost!! But actually, no. Because all the records would remain with the various health providers. All the individual does is compile copies of all their own records, so if they lose them, they can just go back to all the providers and recollect them. A hassle, but an incentive to keep an eye on them.

The second issue is the technology. Which is a very real issue. Different providers use different systems, and there are lots of different things you need to keep. So what happens to all the”stuff” and how do you keep it in a useable format?

To be honest, I dunno. There will be some tricky stuff in there, and this is likely the only actual issue. But, many records could easily be kept in PDF to prevent them being tampered with, and advances in technology mean that it’s easy for people to purchase gigabytes of thumb drive to store stuff on.

The third issue is privacy. What if someone finds and exploits your records!! Well… keep them safe the same way you would any valuable. What about,  “people seeing what medical professionals write on their records!!” Well [again]… medical professionals generally don’t write nasty notes on your records. If they do, then that is another issue altogether. A more pressing issue is people having access to both their own records and the internet. Self-diagnosis is probably the worst outcome of this idea.

Expanding the idea, you could also encourage people to use services like LifeBox to store their personal data.

In the end, what this approach for someone like me is that I wouldn’t have to worry about turning up to an appointment and have a specialist tell me that everything is hunky-dory when I was only in emergency a few days before. I could also transport my records to a new GP, which I needed to recently. In short, a win for everyone. Cheap for the public health system, and more reliable for patients.

*Not guaranteed to be reliable.

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