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27 September 2018

Dr Hans Blom’s desire to help people drew him to medicine, and then led him on a journey to find a better way to deliver it.

Hans has been a general practitioner on Sydney’s Northern Beaches for more than 35 years, amassing a list of lifelong patients and delivering care “from the cradle to the grave”. But the lack of information doctors have at the point of care was keeping him awake at night.

Many of his patients have grown older with him, which means he treats a large number of chronic conditions. Others are frail and require home visits.

“Virtually every consultation means changes in their health profile,” Hans says. “There may be an addition in their medication history, they might have just been vaccinated, or they might have seen a specialist.”

He spent years being vigilant with printed health summaries, but his patients would often lose them. He then spent several years trialing an encrypted USB process which allowed patients to carry their records with them, but it proved difficult to keep accurate.

That’s why Hans jumped at the chance to take part in trials of My Health Record nearly six years ago.

“It was an absolute godsend and my patients have embraced it enthusiastically,” he says. “Knowing there’s always a record following them around gives them a sense of safety. If they suddenly need to see another health professional, particularly a hospital, it’s there for them.”

Changing the system for the better

Hans and other healthcare professionals in the trial directly shaped the way today’s system works by using it, highlighting issues and suggesting improvements. He’s seen many changes over the years, and he has huge confidence in the system.

“Medical professionals spend so much time fishing for bits of information,” Hans says. “I’ve spoken with colleagues in accident and emergency who are so frustrated. They have delirious or unconscious patients arriving in the middle of the night. They need the system to be better.”

But the potential for patients is the real drawcard. Hans treats one couple with complex health needs who love travel and do so frequently. Not long ago, one of them became unwell and ended up in a hospital far from home on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. He says My Health Record saved their life.

“Medication errors are a major cause of hospital admissions,” Hans says. “Accurate records are so important in facilitating care from all the different people that a patient interacts with. It improves their healthcare and their safety.

Information is particularly important as patients get older too, something Hans knows from personal experience.

“My parents moved to Queensland some years ago and as they got older, they became more and more unwell,” he says. “They often moved doctors, which was quite frustrating and they often ended up in hospital with health professionals who didn’t know them. This meant many trips to Queensland for us – almost weekly in the end.

“Most of us will have to look after people in our families. I deal with a lot of carers in our community and they’re 100 per cent behind My Health Record. It’s an absolute relief to know they’ve got a safe record system for their elderly parents.”

Curators of patient records

Hans is taking a long holiday at the end of the month – a well-deserved break in a long career. Years ago, he might have had some trepidation leaving chronically ill patients but, with My Health Record, he knows they’re in save hands.

“I can safely say it’s a non-issue in terms clinical handover,” Hans says. “Should they need to go to hospital, it’s all there. It’s relevant, it’s accurate and it’s detailed.”

It hits at one myth he’s keen to dispel – that electronic records will replace general practice or take some of the humanity out of it. Hans says My Health Record will enhance the doctor/patient relationship.

“GPs are the curators of their records,” he says. “Our role is to make sure that all the different health professionals involved with patients get the information they need and that patients have great trust in their GP.”