Saturday 20 January 2018

Where's my chart? Couuld Irish patient records become digital


Vinegar can help jellyfish stings. Illustration: Eorna Walton
Vinegar can help jellyfish stings. Illustration: Eorna Walton

Maurice Gueret

Sweden goes digital this year. The UK isn't far behind. Maurice Gueret wonders how Irish patients could access medical records, or is it all just up in a cloud?

Missing Chart

Patient records are in the news. By this December, Sweden will have universal online access to medical records of the entire population. Not only for doctors, but for patients themselves. Theresa May is promising that the NHS will join the Swedes in this brave digital world by 2020. Over here in Nama vulture land, we are still trying to locate most of your chart. It was definitely here in the outpatients department last year, because that's where the manilla cover turned up under a commode seat. Your notes and test results disappeared sometime between the evening an intern took them home to dictate a letter and the dawn raid on an illegal landfill in picturesque Co Wicklow.

Man O' War

Congratulations to the zoology team at NUI Galway who joined beach-side researchers at the University of Hawaii to take a look at the best first aid to soothe jellyfish stings in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Out go alcohol, shaving cream, baking soda and peeing on victims of man o' war tentacles. These can all worsen stings. In comes vinegar, which for many years doctors warned not to use. Forget the pharmacy. Run for your nearest Italian chipper. If there is a suspicion that you may have been stung by a nasty box jellyfish, then early medical attention may be needed. Extreme burning pains, difficulty breathing, tummy cramps dry mouth or chest pains are some of the warning signs to watch for.

Mirthless Bully

I missed Meryl Streep's 2011 tour de force in The Iron Lady, where she portrayed Margaret Thatcher's long reign and decline. My lapse was rectified this month through the modern wonder of Netflix streaming. It's an unsettling film that the former UK premier's own children refused to watch. But the lady herself did see it before her death, and if you believe press reports, there were plenty of tears. Lady Thatcher was called many things in life and death. It's hard not to argue with Alan Bennett's summation that she was a mirthless bully.

Milk Snatcher

It's no secret that Thatcher's life after politics wasn't exactly a barrel of fun. Dementia stalked her for 15 years and, like her friend Ronnie Reagan, she forgot the names of many of the countries that they meddled in. The film opens with footage of Lady Thatcher buying a carton of milk in a corner shop, having escaped confinement at home through an unlocked door. She returns home to have a conversation with her husband Denis about the rising price of milk, oblivious to the fact that he has died some years previously.

Can of Worms

A research study at Edinburgh University could open up a can of worms on dementia. Conscious that signs and symptoms often don't appear until later in life, the Prevent project is studying people in their 40s and 50s who may have higher risk through family history. Scientists want to see if there are subtle brain or behavioural changes they could spot early on. It's not all about memory. They have latched onto discrepancies in the way middle-aged people navigate, through streets or countryside. They hope to spot those who may have trouble finding their way home in later life. Early diagnosis is all very well when there is a basketful of cures available. But dementia can be a final frontier as far as remedies are concerned. Early testing is not for this guinea pig. I'll stick with a loyal dog who'll find any home with a biscuit in it.

Saucy Facts

A bus passed the other day advertising the saucy fact that baked beans are low in fat. An obvious fact that doesn't interest my taste buds in the slightest. Over the years, I have honed a simpleton's guide to domestic nutrition. Lesson 1: A bit of fat fills you up and may prevent overeating. I like fat in my milk, fat in my yoghurt and a bit in bacon too. I don't buy foods advertised as low fat. Lesson 2: Sugar is the more important problem. It gives you a rush, often a rush to consume more sugar. It took me years of painstaking experimentation with bags of jellies to find out this. Lesson 3: Four grams of sugar makes one teaspoon. Check the wrapper and see how many grams of sugar are in one can of beans. Divide the figure by four. Would you tolerate that many teaspoons of sugar in tea or coffee? Me neither.

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