Wrong patient, wrong diagnosis – everything is wrong
Dr Pam Rachootin
24th August 2018
published in the Medical Observer

I can feel Big Brother’s presence engulfing me. Today I got a call from the immunisation registry. “I just want to let you know that this call is being recorded for quality assurance. Is that all right?”

“No,” I replied. “Then I have to hang up,” she said, and the line went dead. Since when do I have to be recorded to receive a phone call?

The day before, I was invited to participate in “a short survey about the bowel cancer screening program by the Department of Health”.

I was assured that my identity would always remain absolutely anonymous and that none of my identifying details would be disclosed to the client.

After a call from the marketing company, I learned that to be eligible for the survey I had to consent to activate my webcam and be videoed while giving my responses. In the end, I declined.

Why do I need to be filmed giving my opinion, when I was having a bad hair day? To me, that is another example of attempted invasion of privacy.

Then there’s electronic medical information. Frankly, I’m worried. In the past few weeks, I have received a number of hospital discharge summaries and letters from specialists that contained errors.

One discharge summary said the patient presented to the ED with a sore throat. This struck me as quite peculiar, seeing as the patient was actually a medico.

It turned out that the real reason for their presentation was angioedema. The diagnosis on the discharge summary was “unspecified soft tissue disorder, other site”.

This was a case of fake diagnosis. I believe it has something to do with an unworkable electronic health record system and the inability to find the appropriate code.

I got another hospital discharge summary indicating that a patient had been sent there by their GP (me) for a UTI. Actually, I had sent them to hospital with a detailed letter because of a critical result on their blood picture that could rapidly prove fatal.

To think that these priceless gems of medical mis­information will end up in the My Health Record database is disconcerting.

In recent days I also received a letter reporting a consult for a female patient of mine who was yet to be seen by the specialist. It detailed a consultation with a male patient for a very different problem than the one troubling my patient.

It took a week to sort out who the actual patient and the referring doctor were. I was told to shred my letter.

Along with these glaring examples of fake patients and fake diagnoses are hospital nursing discharge summaries that have been perfected into pages of generic nothingness, which will just clog up the My Health Record system.

Who is going to delete unnecessary documents and correct all this nonsense?

I thought I might volunteer. But then I called the Medicare Provider “hotline” and waited, and waited some more, listening to several complete symphonies.

I had a question: If a patient requests a medical summary or update or correction to be made for them on My Health Record during a GP consult with that patient present, can the doctor be reimbursed by Medicare for their time?

The first time I asked the question I was forwarded to another number and waited for 20 minutes of symphonic splendour before giving up.

I tried again and eventually got through to another service operator, Richard, who indicated that as there is no item number for My Health Record updates, GPs cannot be paid for their efforts via Medicare.

Today I learned from a friendly primary health network support person that I will not be allowed to add any information as a GP to any of my patient’s My Health Record because I do not have compatible software.

It also appears that there is no easy way to correct possible mistakes within the system, unless the patient acts to hide documents.

Following these interactions, I decided to personally opt out of My Health Record.

I waited 15 minutes before my call was answered by a human, during which time I heard a variety of messages to try to convince me to change my mind.

Then, I was forced to listen to a minute of privacy policy mumbo jumbo before I could finally supply my Medicare number, full name and birthdate to the friendly person helping me, and be taken out of the system. Amen.