Tuesday 20 January 2015

A Geeky Computer Science Interlude

Throughout my few days in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital one main point I have noticed is the frequency with which you are asked to repeat certain details about yourself. Now in a few instances this is more as proof of identity than for actual data collection, but similarly there have been many instances of me being asked for repeated data at multiple points.

One example of this is the collection of my next of kin’s contact details. This one stood out because it is the one detail I do not know off the top of my head and that requires a little bit of effort (looking in my phonebook) to give to the staff.

  • I was first asked for this on arrival at A&E on the Tuesday evening.
  • When I returned the next day for my MRI scan I was asked for it again at reception.
  • I was asked for it by a nurse when being processed for my scan.
  • Again I provided it to my neurologist when filling in a form relating to my proposed hospital transfer.  

Since transferring to Cardiff I have also provided it on at least two occasions.

Now, I have no issue with providing this information, or any of the other data that they request. The issue I have is that this is still a process which could not be simplified to the benefit of both staff and patients. The amount of time staff are spending requesting this sort of data must add up to a very significant percentage of their hours over the course of a week, month or year. Further to this I have recounted the exact circumstances of my pins and needles incident at least half a dozen times, which again must be very time consuming for the staff that are asking about it.

I obviously understand that there are data protection issues and access issues that may cause data to be entered multiple times as well as certain technological and architectural problems. However it seems to me that an investment in redesigning the systems that underlie this NHS data collection could provide massive long term benefits in both efficiency and quality of care.

For example, at it’s most rudimentary level a system that allows receptionists access to top level data relating to a patient, then allows triage access too embellish on this before allowing the assessing medical professional to add the greatest wealth of detail would, in my opinion, vastly speed up the process of managing each patient. And, in a time where the NHS (although, I must stress excellent in every regard of my care) are failing to meet targets for dealing with patients in A&E, this could be of massive help to those on the ‘front line’ of health care. 

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