So in a previous rant (which you read with rapt attention, I’m sure – there’s nothing more interesting than some fool who blogs about his health) about me being discharged from the stroke unit and told that the neurologist would see me in six weeks if I was still living by then.
Shortly after this, I received a letter informing me that my neurology appointment had been cancelled due to Burton hospital not actually employing any neurologists (or words to that effect).
After a few phonecalls, a bored deskjockey suggests that if I really must blather on about knowing what’s wrong with me – like some self-absorbed, mortality-obsessed hypochondriac – I could be referred to a neurologist in Derby (the closest big city, about ten miles away). For those who don’t know their midlands-UK geography, Derby is similar to Burton, but the indigenous population enjoy more advanced technology and don’t smell of Marmite.
But here’s the kicker: bored deskjockey was unable to clarify whether a Derby neurologist would be able to access my scans, because Derby is in a different county. If not, they would have to request them transferred (which could take months, assuming they don’t get lost on the way) or they’d have to do a whole new set.
I’ve had so many X-rays, CTs and MRI scans, it’s a wonder I’m not glowing like the Readybrek advert (kids, ask your parents) already. The thought of doing it all again fills me with dread. But not to worry: I do have some of my own scans … sort of.
Many of the last few appointments I attended involved me sitting in an overworked consultant’s office, waiting for him to turn up. His computer is on his desk, with my scan results on screen. In such bored moments, I have found myself looking through my notes and snapping some images with my mobile – mostly so that everyone on Facebook can marvel at how underused my brain looks.
I foresee a scenario where I visit a Derby consultant, he says “sorry, we don’t have your scans, you’ll have to have another set” and I just hand my mobile over to him and say “will these do?”. Alternatively, I could just make friends with him on Facebook. While he’s there, he can count how many of my status updates elude to alcohol abuse or fatty food intake.
This raises some interesting ideas on the future of the NHS. Whenever you hear the words “radical shakeup of the NHS” that normally just means “Government spin towards crippling the NHS and forcing everyone to go private”. But my suggestions really are radical.
The main problem with computerising medical records is (apparently) one of security: being sure that only those who are allowed to look at your medical records do so. Have a read of this excellent article for a proper opinion.
Now, I remember studying the Data Protection Act and computer privacy at University years ago. How the Holy Grail of advertising would be to have information on everyone – their tastes, sexual preferences and deepest secrets – so that advertisers would know how best to fleece them.
At the time, my lecturers scoffed; declaring that this would never happen and is a future only for George Orwell novels … until Facebook arrived. It turns out all you need to do to make everyone willingly supply this information is to tell them they’ll make more friends and have more sex by doing so. Now, people spend all their time comparing themselves against others, saying “OMG! Someone else has listed ‘eating’ and ‘breathing’ in their favourite activities! That’s uncanny! I must have sex with them!” without noticing how accurate all those popup ads have suddenly become.
So if the notion of privacy and anonymity has become largely irrelevant (and more importantly: most people seem absolutely fine with this) then I propose we dispense with it entirely, and just put everyone’s medical history on Facebook. Perhaps we should make a new version and call it Sickbook.
Each GP’s surgery would be required to have a Facebook presence. Then, any time you get a rash, simply use your phone to snap it and tag your GP on the bit that worries you the most. Record a video if it makes a worrying noise when squeezed, poked or clenched. Bowel problems? No worries: if you take your phone into the toilet with you then the evidence can be captured forever. Out of your posterior – into posterity.
It would provide an interesting new avenue for Instagram, whose staff are all very sick of storing gigabytes of photos of people’s lunch. Now they can store pictures of stools after that lunch. They could call it Sphinctagram.
Contracted an STD from a particularly intoxicated work colleague at the Christmas party? No problem! Just discretely tag them in a status (“Got a crotch covered in fire-ants and pissing like a flamethrower – thanks Mandy Simmons”) – and both you and Mandy get invites to an ‘event’ at your respective clinics. Plus, everyone else at work will know to keep the two of you sober and clothed for a while.
Call-centres currently at risk of closure would have their staff retrained to diagnose many illnesses, releasing GPs’ valuable time to diagnosing more advanced cases or playing golf.
Requesting a second opinion will become a thing of the past: now, each of your ailments will have a thousand opinions! And OK, half of those opinions might just be your friends being dicks, but that still leaves 500 opinions with some validity … which is still 498 better than under the current system.
Targeted advertising is of course an essential part of the Facebook experience, and your medical records online will assist in this. Getting a lot of “funny” rashes? Perhaps you’ll soon need a local divorce lawyer! Do you have a repeat prescription for gentlemen’s “enhancement” medication? Well, if you’re getting it on the NHS then there’s no point trying to sell you any “cheapest meds online”, is there?
You may think I’m being silly, but … we have become a nation who are perfectly happy to appear on programmes like “Embarrassing Bodies” and bare our souls and wobbly parts for a few minutes of fame (unlikely to be the full fifteen minutes that Warhol envisioned unless you have a rectal polyp that looks exactly like Emeli Sandé). The latest series sees many people using Skype in order to get their horribly disfigured wedding-tackle broadcast in glorious, 1080p high definition (I’m sure we all look forward to the day Skype supports 3D cameras) without leaving their lounge. These people aren’t loners or hermits – they’re your friends and coworkers!
The morning after their reveal-all appearance, they roll into work and proudly shout across the office: “Who saw my third testicle on TV last night? For the right price, I’m available for after-dinner speeches and children’s parties.”. So it seems a silly notion that our medical records should be kept private when we’re perfectly happy to disclose it all on national television.
I didn’t dare embed a Youtube clip just in case anyone reads this blog whilst eating their lunch. Instead, I invite you to have a look on Youtube (tip: don’t be drinking whilst watching, or you’re likely to cover your monitor with tea).