October 12th, 2010

Information Age, My Ass

This is a followup to the original rant posted a few weeks ago.

That was written in frustration after burning half a day travelling to and from a doctor's appointment that was almost completely wasted time (for both the doctor and I) because the images and evaluations from my past few PET/CT scans had not managed to travel, over an interval of several weeks, between two medical centers a few miles apart.

Today's appointment? Same song, different verse. Still no images, without which my doctor (quite reasonably) was reluctant to offer any opinions or advice. Once again, almost a complete waste of time (for which, this time, I ducked out a bit early from a training session and missed out on a colleague's farewell event). We actually discussed, briefly, just having another set of scans done at his facility instead of continuing to tilt at the windmill of getting copies (but just because I'm already sterile doesn't mean I don't prefer a less-is-more approach to radiation where possible).

This is insanely frustrating - as mentioned in the previous rant, I worked in a medical records department *decades* ago, and very little seems to have improved. I have trouble coming up with an expletive strong enough to express how ludicrous this situation is. On the tiny computer in my pocket, I have many times more than enough storage, computing power, connectivity, and for that matter display resolution to keep a complete, current, secured copy of my personal medical record. Why don't I have one? Why would it literally be faster to transcribe the whole thing, including the images, and train a pigeon to tap it all out in morse code, than to simply get that information attached to an email and sent across town?

To me, this is only a (recurring) annoyance. My cancer, at least according to that last scan, isn't especially aggressive (at least right now). I can spare the time. So I write my little blog-rant, and I send a few old-fashioned nastygrams. So, I expect, do several thousand others in similar situations - none of us achieving much more than perhaps having briefly dropped our blood pressure a bit.

I have to wonder, though. Apart from the time and money (both doctors' and patients') wasted by reschedules and retests, how many people with more urgent medical issues has this ridiculously retro system genuinely harmed by unnecessarily delaying treatment? At risk of sounding hyperbolic, how many has it *killed*? Seriously.