It’s terminal: Why our doctors’ reluctance to change could cost our lives 46



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Think about the last time you went to the doctor – has the surgery you go to changed in recent times? Has your doctor changed the way they work and check your symptoms?

The majority of us will say that no, nothing has changed dramatically in the way our health care is provided at our doctor’s surgery. In fact, not much would have changed in the last 20 years.

You go to the doctor, sit in the waiting room, and read a magazine. You go in and the doctor does your blood pressure and checks your breathing etc. They then tell you what you need to do and write a script, and off you go.

Most of us think this is fine and an easy enough way to get help for our illnesses, but over the last few years, the GP world has been changing behind the scenes.

Doctors have a certain formula that works and is fairly easy. With the introduction of the e-health system three years ago, one would think that their electronic medical information would be discussed at an appointment. Personally, the last 5 or 6 times I’ve been to the doctor, they have not discussed my e-health record, nor asked for it. I’m not sure they even have it on their records. When I went to the hospital recently, the woman next to me had a manila folder filled with around three reams of paper in it – yes, three reams. If she was in a life threatening situation, and someone wanted to know her history, it could take hours to even find the piece of paper. Yet, e-health’s integration still doesn’t seem high on the priority list, and it could be costing our lives.

According to information from Professor Steve Hambleton, the chair of the National E-Health Transition Authority, the hospitalisation of thousands of people each year could be prevented if their health providers shared information electronically, but they can’t because their software systems do not talk to each other.

Shockingly, around 230,000 people are admitted to Australian hospitals every year as a result of this error, causing huge problems with medication.

Professor Hambleton told Fairfax that poor communication between nurses, GPs, emergency staff, pharmacists and other health professionals resulted in thousands of preventable hospitalisations and deaths because patients were doubling up on medication or taking the wrong drugs.

Now IT companies working on the billion dollar database are trying to make the systems communicate, otherwise e-health is essentially doomed.

So far, only one million people have joined e-health and doctors aren’t helping – they’re not loading patient details onto the system at every check up despite that being what it’s used for.

The Abbott government re-committed to the electronic health records system post-Budget after acknowledging it needed to be changed so patients opted out rather than opt-in as they currently do.

But time will tell if even opt-out will truly be the solution, or if the key lies in how our doctors feel about putting the power in patients’ hands.


Tell us, is it time doctors did this for the greater good? Or do they know best? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. My doctor gives me all the print outs of my condition which was extremely helpful when I had to go to ER it speeded up the process of working out of what was wrong with me

  2. it s always a good idea to change your doctor say every 5 years

    3 REPLY
    • I disagree. If you need a change, change your own knowledge every five years. I’ve been seeing my GP for 31 years and his knowledge of me caused him to pick up my ovarian cancer on a hunch when I had no symptoms. He has deliberately and diligently kept up to date with changes in medical knowledge and style and has no issues with me making the decisions about my health, after ensuring that I’m fully informed. When you’re on a good thing, stick to it. I hate waste.

    • Totally agree Peninsular, I’d rather see my doctor that I’ve had for 30 yrs that knows my full medical history & what’s best for me.

    • Peninsular once upon a time I would had agree with you ( my renal specialist I was with him 55 years and yes I was very young and had full faith and trust in him) but unfortunately GP starting to change and not as reliable as they once were.

  3. Doctor are always right. Comment from a doctor I went to see….doctors are stupid. For once I totally agreed.

  4. Just had to change doctors as ours had moved too far away. Filled out form to get our records transferred from previous practice. Thought there would be a charge for this but received invoices for $55.00 EACH!! Seeing as everything is on computer how hard is it to transfer a file or even print it and post it. Think every doctor and hospital should be able to access our records easily but how successful will the system be when there are medical practices that tell patients their records belong to their businesses even when we have had some of those records transferred previously?

    4 REPLY
    • And you will find they only send a report anyway! Mymother changed doctors often when she moved states until we found a decent one. Most of her records were not sent from practice to practice, just a report with not much contained in it. Considering she has longstanding heart problems, NOT GOOD!

    • The reason I was going to get records transferred was because of my husbands health issues but after what you’ve said it doesn’t sound like it’s worth it!

  5. We have no choice. We onky have one medical centre in our town. And they have a massive turnover of doctors. Just when you get used to a doctor, you make an appointment only to be told the doctor has moved on and you are being transferred to a newbie.

  6. The one thing Doctors NEED to do is listen to their patients. Just because it’s not in a book, doesn’t mean certain conditions don’t exist. Modern medicine today is very complex. Why is it, if a Doctor isn’t sure of something they won’t refer you on. This is not about EGO, I’ve had a few run ins with doctors, have proved them wrong a couple of times. I am a firm believer in following your Gut feeling. So many new diseases now, you need a doctor who genuinely listens.

  7. Went along with e-health records from early on and, in fact, discussed it with my GP at an appointment on Friday. Communication glitches need to be corrected before it can become universal, then comes the problem of convincing people to go down that path… for their own benefit.

  8. GPs are exactly that and are not specialists. My husband went to a GP after having a show of blood. He was given cream for “piles”. Six months later he had another show of blood and was sent to a specialist who diagnosed advanced bowel cancer. They have no right to play with people’s lives and any show of blood should be investigated immediately. Since then I decide if I need to see a specialist since I am in a private health fund.

    2 REPLY
    • Your post is misleading as you still need a referral to see a specialist and the visit is not covered by private insurance

    • Yes I know I need a referral Julie, but some GPs don’t even want to give you one, so I ask for one. Some things are covered by my private insurance, depends what I’m having done.

  9. As a highly qualified research Librarian by profession, I must say i’m pretty lucky with my new Dr. I met her at an after hours emergency medical clinic ($85NZD) and I just clicked with her. My other Dr and I just weren’t on the same page. Anyway I had to wait 6 months before I could be put onto my new Dr’s. patient list (very specific rules over here about poaching other Dr’s patients!!) So my new Dr. (she) and I discuss a lot of stuff (particularly around menopause cos I wanted a saliva test done for hormone levels but it’s not done here in NZ???? only the blood test) but I certainly get value for my money ($47NZD) however remember there’s no medicare over here. Health Insurance companies here charge a fortune for little in return and don’t reimburse you for vaccinations either and as I am over 50 I had the shingles vac which isn’t funded by the Govt here either and it cost me $195NZD. When I was very young (17-27) I was an Ambo, so i’ve got a bit of medical training behind me and if i’m honest this does help when communicating your needs/requirements/suspicions to the medico’s. PS: My new Dr is an Aussie – so this also helps ……

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