I have been following the eHealth record articles with interest, both locally in Australia and internationally. Now, I am not a health professional so my interest is in the debate and topics discussed rather than the content of records. Even to a casual observer like myself however, I am intrigued by the 'lack' of debate in some areas. All the discussion (in the public arena at least) seems to be around privacy and patient confidentiality. Obviously this is hugely important and may never be satisfactorily resolved. My interest though (in eHealth) is much simpler. Paper has served us well for a long, long time. It should/can be replaced digitally in many circumstances, but surely it should be to give better outcomes, not just for efficiency. Many hospitals are currently scanning records, so some are available, some not. Imagine you are in hospital for a routine matter, you have a cardiac arrest, get rushed to emergency, and your records are not available online for one reason or another. You are allergic to a particular drug, but where is this recorded?
Obviously there are huge benefits in electronic records, but there is also a risk surely, that it could be like having a lecture at 8.30am on a Monday morning at my university. More times than not the network is down, and you have to wait for a technician to arrive at 9am, make a coffee, start up, realise there is a problem, then fix it by 9.30am if you are lucky.
But back to the drop-down box. In a paperless world, we have (or should have) unlimited room to write notes. Consider this scenario, when a pregnant woman books in at a hospital.
Q. Was your pregnancy planned?
A. Y or N
Never having been pregnant myself, but as a father of four, even I know it's not that simple!! Yes, it was planned, but then my life was turned upside down, or no it wasn't planned but isn't it grand?
In an ePortfolio, i see this this 'dropdown' box effect all the time. 'Stuff' dumped on a page with no explanation. A video embedded, with-out a label, or apparent purpose. Just as doctors, nurses and other health professionals have appended notes on a clipboard at the end of a patients bed for generations, eRecords, for whatever purpose should also be comprehensive and descriptive. Life is not as simple as a drop-down box.