Jane Wilson-Howarth

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GP of a Certain Age

Wednesday, 01 April 2015
I am ancient. I go back to the time when the Principal of my collage was evicted from his suite of offices so that The Computer could be accommodated.  Air conditioning even had to be installed. We learned to write simple programmes with do-loops. We booked slots to punch holes in cards to symbolise these mysterious codes. Then we queued to feed our stacks of cards into the computer which – if the gods were with us and we hadn’t made a single small mistake in the code – did some simple statistical analysis for us. I haven’t grown up with techy, user-friendly, intuitive gismos. I’m not of that age. Intuitive to me has a different interpretation.
The GP surgery where I work three days a week as a job-share is populated mostly by contemporaries. Reception is staffed by kindly women who dye away their greys and are reluctant computer operators. Only some have smart-phones but they are calm organised and knowledgeable. Our admin staff have, like me, learned computer skills later in life. We’ve all become competent with the system though and were striving for a paper-light practice.
But times are changing and it is valuable to be connected to others’ involved in our patients’ care. We had to upgrade so on Friday 13th March we changed to new software. It is a clever system that is a huge improvement on the last. Or it will be when I’ve remembered how to log on each morning. I will feel calmer when I understand how to action red messages that pop up on screen randomly and distract me from what patients are telling me. And I will learn not to be spooked when I read that a message has been escalated because I’ve failed to read it. What the computer classes as urgent and what I call urgent are very, very different.
The trouble is that this software migration comes at the end of the financial year when Big Brother is spying on us to find out how hard they think we’ve been working, and the Care Quality Commission inquisition is also threatening to descend upon us any moment, apply a magnifying glass to our protocols and check our paintwork is the right colour, while all we really want to do is see and look after our patients.
Our local hospital, Addenbrookes, has also been struggling with a new computer system. They’ve called it e-hospital. Wouldn’t it be great if patients could opt to have a virtual cancer rather than the real thing? Would they want virtual doctors too? The Addenbrookes staff have been in crisis because of the change and six months on are still far less efficient. They’re seeing fewer patients and doing fewer operations. Stress levels for everyone are through the roof, but things are better than they were at the end of last year.
One positive spin-off for us regarding the e-hospital though is that, because some of our patients work at the hospital, they understand our pain. Most of the rest of our patients are astonishingly supportive and patient with us too, and I feel privileged to look after such a fine population.  But there’s always a fly in the ointment. Less than two weeks after our change of software, a single rogue patient came to reception and commented, “The computer excuse is wearing a bit thin now.”
She narrowly escaped with her life.
The trouble is, that one impatient patient overshadows the 95% who aren’t and for a moment makes us forget that most people are thoroughly excellent, likeable and a joy to care for.
Posted: 01/04/2015 01:13:30 by Global Administrator | with 0 comments



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