Sir, – The abject failure of some HSE administrators to implement electronic health records, despite receiving funding of €200 million more than three years ago, beggars belief. We should be very concerned that this failure is, as Prof Martin Curley stated, risking patients’ lives (“‘Bad actors’ blocking digitisation of HSE”, January 25th).
For some decades now GP practices have been computerised without any funding or incentives from the HSE. When GPs refer a patient to an accident and emergency department they do so by way of a computer-generated letter which contains their past and present medical history, current medication and any known allergies. These letters could be sent by secure by secure clinical email (Healthmail) and be triaged before the patient arrives.
In most public hospitals, after an accident and emergency doctor sees a patient, he or she has to handwrite all their notes in a paper file. When they are discharging the patient they then have to handwrite a discharge summary for the patient to give to their GP. These discharge summaries contain all the details of the patient’s presentation, examination, investigation results, medical history and a list of all their medication. The medication list and medical history includes all the medication which was included in the GP referral letter.
Parts of these handwritten discharge summaries are often illegible.
This is understandable and is not the fault of the hospital doctor who is under extreme pressure to see his or her next patient who is languishing on a trolley or a chair.
It is the fault of their employer, the HSE.
With over 1.3 million attendances at our accident and emergency departments annually there must be thousands of doctors’ hours wasted handwriting these discharge summaries when they could be seeing other patients, not to mention the unnecessary additional stress it must impose upon them. – Yours, etc,
Dr REGGIE SPELMAN,