Twenty years ago the NHS began the process to take paper records and create digital summaries. Collating relevant data and standardising it is a complicated task, but when done properly, the current COVID-19 pandemic has provided a great example of just how invaluable digitalising medical records really is. We have seen a stream of reports published on the impact of COVID-19. This has helped policymakers better understand the demographics of those that have been affected. The primary care digitalising of medical records has given the country a database of patient records including such categories as age groups and pre-existing conditions. From this analysis can work out which patients are most at risk, where to focus containment efforts, where the healthcare system will face strain, and which interventions can best mitigate the crisis.
Trained and experienced primary care staff have been central to the summarising and digitalising of medical records. In order to make better predictions on the spread and impact of Covid-19, more data from reliable sources is needed. Patients’ medical records are just one example of where life-saving information has been used to and gather valuable insights, which in turn
One strategy for reopening the economy before a vaccine is developed could involve monitoring the contacts of newly infected people, and knowing the individuals who are most at risk would make this a powerful and effective strategy. The more complete the data, the more effective this solution could be.
However there are still plenty of notes still sitting in practice cupboards, so this rich source of data still has some way to go before its exhausted. The primary care task now is to make the time to make it a key objective to finish the task, so that patients across all GP practices are given the benefit of having their risk profile considered as part of a risk management strategy in managing social distancing and for the greater public good.
While diseases can spread fast, verified data and knowledge can spread even faster, and that is where the focus needs to be. The importance of having a logical approach to summarising medical records and getting this data in the hands of analysts has never been stronger.