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14 September 2018

Sue Bouwmeester has worked in hospitals and private practice for a long time, so she knows the difference that a missing piece of paper can make to a medical file. But, she never expected it would hit so close to home.

Sue’s husband Lou has numerous health conditions and always handled his health himself, diligently taking his medications and getting regular checkups. She never needed to be part of his health routine until one day she received a phone call.

“Lou collapsed at work and was taken by ambulance to Royal Perth Hospital,” Sue says. “I hurried to the hospital because I wanted to find out if he was ok. But when I arrived, I got a million questions from doctors about his medical problems and medications. I didn’t have the answers to any of them.”

From her experience working in the healthcare sector, Sue knew how important it was for doctors to know about Lou’s medical history.

“I know from their side that doctors need this information: the test results and medications,” Sue says. “But my mind went blank. I was so worried about Lou that I couldn’t think straight. I was just stuck there.”

When the love of your life gets sick

Sue first arrived in Perth on a holiday from Melbourne nearly 45 years ago. It was a two-week trip that expanded to four and then six. At the three-month mark she met Lou, and never returned home. The pair recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary.

“He’s my life. He’s everything to me,” Sue says. “It’s really hard when your main concern is the person you love, the person you treasure. And he’s unwell. You don’t know why, you don’t know what the situation is – you don’t know anything.”

After Lou’s collapse, Sue was determined to make his health information readily accessible to his doctors. When her GP told her about My Health Record, she jumped at the chance sign up.

“Having worked in a hospital environment for quite a few years, I’ve worked with paper records. I know how one piece of paper missing out of a file can make a big difference to how a doctor interprets a patient’s care,” Sue says. “My Health Record has important information in one place – so it doesn’t go missing.”

Making it easier to manage

Three months after Lou’s first collapse he had a second. But unlike the first scare, Sue and Lou were prepared.

“He wasn’t coherent and couldn’t recollect everything properly – and some of the information he was giving to the doctors was incorrect,” Sue says. 

“They wanted to know what medical problems he had, and and I was able to say. ‘He’s got a My Health Record. It’s all there.’”

Instead of having to ring around Western Australia to chase up Lou’s medical details, doctors had the information they needed within minutes. It took a weight off Sue’s shoulders – instead of having to worry about Lou’s health information, she could focus on Lou.

Sue and Lou are still trying to get a definitive diagnosis for Lou’s health issues. It means going from place to place, seeing a raft of specialists.

“It can be very wearing, very taxing,” Sue says. “Your mind can be in a hundred places at once. But it’s a relief to not have to think of all those other bits of information from six, seven, even 12 months ago. You can focus on the problem at hand.

“I don’t have to worry anymore. It makes a heck of a difference.”