• Date: 25 May 2012

KEEPING with the technology theme in this issue of PM – not long ago Diary came across a cartoon by Stephen Collins in the Guardian newspaper. A couple are lying on a hillside and a passenger jet flies high over head. The woman says: “You know Brad, sometimes I like to come up here and just watch the planes. I like to wonder where they’re going…New York…Paris…Cairo… maybe even Ulaanbaatar… And I like to think of the people on them, and how their lives might be changed by this journey, and how maybe, just maybe, one day it’ll be me, flying away from this dreary little town, with its dreary little dreams…Y’ know?” The man holds his smartphone up toward the plane – “Blip, blip” – and says: “It is going to Luton.” The final panel in the cartoon reads: “APPS: SPOILING THINGS SINCE 2008.”

I HAVE AN APP FOR THAT News that the Department of Health could soon be directing GPs to “prescribe” patient apps had Diary struggling not to swallow its own scepticism much like a bottle-fed baby does air. At a recent event held to showcase the best ideas for new and existing health smartphone apps, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “So many people use apps every day to keep up with their friends, with the news, find out when the next bus will turn up or which train to catch. I want to make using apps to track blood pressure, to find the nearest source of support when you need it and to get practical help in staying healthy the norm.” Perhaps he could benefit from an app to pinpoint and avoid the baying mobs opposed to his NHS reforms.

EYE ROBOT Just when you learn to savour the few precious places free from the daily bombardment of emails (shower, swimming pool, MRI scanner), scientists come along with a new technology to shatter those rare quiet moments. A new generation of bionic contact lenses has been developed that will allow users to read emails via projected images floating before their eyes. Like a scene straight out of Terminator, the flexible lens and its complex microcircuitry can beam computer-generated images straight out of your eyeballs. A crude prototype has been tested on rabbits at the University of Washington, according to the Journal of Micromechanics and Microengineering, and is said to be safe and feasible but currently only works within centimetres of a wireless battery. Other uses include lenses that can monitor the wearer’s health through sensors in their body.

SOUND OF SILENCE If the increasing demands of practice management all get a bit much for you, then there may be just the place for you in a remote part of Minneapolis, USA. The ‘anechoic chamber’ at Orfield Laboratories, Minnesota, with its 3-foot thick walls, holds the Guinness World Record for the quietest place on earth. But before you rush to book your flights, staying there for too long tends to cause hallucinations. The longest anyone has managed to stay in the chamber is 45 minutes as the total silence amplifies your body’s own noises which quickly become disorientating. Source: Daily Mail

DIGESTIVE DRAMA Next time you reach for that Hob Nob in the practice biscuit tin, spare a thought for staff at the Department of Health. The Independent reports that an “urgent review” has been ordered after it was revealed the DoH had spent £109,017 in three months buying “tea and biscuits” for meetings with staff and visitors. Responding to the mild outrage, a DoH spokesman said the bill was actually a “marked improvement” compared to the first three months of last year when officials notched up £137,000 on light refreshments, and in 2010 when they spent £194,000. One suspects more biscuit down-sizing to come.

CROSSING GENDERS Shock new figures reveal that, between 2009 and 2010, over 17,000 men attended NHS obstetric services, more than 8,000 to gynaecology and nearly 20,000 to midwifery. What’s more, during that time more than 3,000 people aged 0-19 attended geriatric services while 20,000 people aged over 30 attended outpatient paediatric services. The phenomenon isn’t a new innovation designed to increase social inclusion, but a symptom of erroneous capturing and coding of patient episodes. Authors from Imperial College London NHS Healthcare Trust have highlighted the issue in a letter published on bmj.com. They are calling on clinicians to take extra care when recording this data as it will eventually inform the decision-making regarding how NHS services are commissioned.

KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON Arguing at work is more damaging health-wise than taking part in competitive sports, new research suggests. Workplace bust-ups can result in raised pro-inflammatory cytokines which might trigger or exacerbate disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and even some types of cancer. Food for thought next time you’re tempted to shout at one of your practice employees. It’d be far safer to try your hand at a spot of Olympic wrestling… Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2012

NO PREVIOUS HISTORY OF SUICIDES In a random surf of medical-related guff, Diary came across a collection of notes allegedly entered on hospital medical charts. Here are but a few:

“The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.”

“Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.”

“She is numb from her toes down.”

“Occasional, constant infrequent headaches.”

“The lab test indicated abnormal lover function.”

“Skin: somewhat pale, but present.”

“The patient has been depressed since she began seeing me in 1993.”

“When she fainted her eyes rolled around the room.”

“The patient was in his usual state of good health until his airplane ran out of fuel and crashed.”

“The patient had no previous history of suicides.”

CALL FOR DIARY ITEMS Do you have any tidbits, anecdotes or absurdities in a similar vein to the items above? Please write in or email them to PM@mddus.com

From Practice Manager Issue 06 p15

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