I've been a bit lapse in blogging of late, partly because it's been one of the few occasions when I could spend time with Laura (and it will be weeks before I can see her properly again, something that I'm not happy about), and partly I've just been completely overflowing with procrastination. Never mind – I'm looking to blog every day until the new year. Plus do 'other stuff'.
Now to ambulance things.
I love Google, I really do. It does a wonderful job and helps me out in nearly endless ways.
It seems that more and more calls that I go to have a computer running in the background. These computers are often displaying a 'health information' webpage. While I think that having readily available information is a good thing, it is important to be able to interpret that information. It is not enough to read and understand the words that are shown on screen, it needs to be filtered through some form of expert knowledge, even if it is just the skill to use a bit of common sense.
Take for instance a job I went to recently. The patient is a fit and healthy 25 year old. He works on a building site and this involves plenty of heavy lifting. For the last two weeks he has had pain in his left arm. He'd already been to A&E because he was afraid that it was something serious. The hospital did plenty of medical tests, all of which came back normal.
So, why was he calling for an ambulance when the illness was so old? He'd looked on a web-site and it had mentioned that left arm pain can be caused by having a heart attack. He'd read this, then started to have a minor panic attack, as he continued reading it also told him that difficulty in breathing is also a symptom of a heart attack.
Now – most people would realise that, given his history, it would be very unlikely that he would be having a heart attack lasting two weeks. But this patient read the webpage uncritically and so convinced himself that the cause of his pain was cardiac in nature.
Obviously this was one of our high priority calls, so the FRU car was already there although we weren't too far behind. All I could really do for the patient was to reassure him, check his vital signs and symptoms, and then drive him to hospital so that he could be 'checked out'. He was a nice enough bloke and he accepted that some of his symptoms were caused by his fear, so for me it is an easy job and one that got me off shift on time.
I think that you need to develop an easy-going attitude to these sorts of calls, you can get very annoyed by these calls that seem like a waste of time. I just put it down to fear and lack of knowledge, not something a lot of people can do much about.
however with that lack of knowledge rather unfortunately often comes a lack of critical thinking about what turns up on an internet search. While Google can be helpful, it isn't the be all and end all, you still need people who can interpret it, after all 15 out of 26 diagnosis isn't that good a hit rate.