Just for the record

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Here’s a nice problem to have: in many countries, patient care is becoming more complex because we’re generally living longer and surviving illnesses that would have at one time spelled the end. That means an increasing reliance on multiple specialists to treat our ailments, and the need to reliably share ever-growing quantities of information to enable the best care outcomes.

As different hospitals, departments and doctors interact, there exists a potential for mix-ups, and questions of confidentiality to consider. The situation is further complicated by rising global mobility, where greater migration than ever before mixes multiple legislations, languages, notations and insurance systems into our personal health records. Fortunately, there’s an ISO technical committee dedicated to improving the way that our medical information is stored and shared. ISOfocus reached out to discover more about how standardization can improve the flow of information, and patient care.

But first, hereʼs what I know about hospitals and patient records. I remember my earliest trip to the hospital with dreamlike clarity. Which is to say, perhaps I misremember details and invent others. (Memories, like all records, are subject to the introduction of error.) However, some things come back in high-fidelity: the bitter smell of cleaning fluids, colour-coded floor lines directing visitors, nurses sorting endless racks of patient cards and smoking.

It seems very different to the hospitals of today; three decades have seen significant advances in almost every area of healthcare. For one thing, the smokers have been kicked out into the cold, but in many hospitals you may still find filing cabinets stuffed to the runners with precious patient data.

By Barnaby Lewis