Letters

Guidelines in general practice

BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7192.1212 (Published 01 May 1999) Cite this as: BMJ 1999;318:1212

Information overload on GPs' desks must be overcome

  1. Rudolf Hanka, Director (hanka@medschl.cam.ac.uk)
  1. Centre for Clinical Informatics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 2SR
  2. Wigmore Lane Health Centre, Luton, Bedfordshire LU2 8BG
  3. Orchard Street Health Centre, Ipswich IP4 2PU
  4. Ipswich Hospital, Ipswich IP4 5PD

    EDITOR—Hibble et al have quantified the extent to which general practitioners are being buried under an avalanche of paper on their desks.1 This problem does not occur only in general practice; neither is it specific to the NHS. As Muir Gray points out, the present position is intolerable and counterproductive and is getting worse, affecting not only professionals but also patients and carers.2

    With the prevailing enthusiasm to convert all paper based information into electronic form and make it accessible over the internet, we are creating a situation in which we are gradually being overwhelmed by electronic communications. Three quarters of all business communications in Britain are now estimated to use electronic media3; even though this has not yet happened in the NHS, the long awaited expansion of NHSNet could bring about this degree of penetration in the not too distant future. Given the widely different designs and organisations of electronic documents placed on the multitude of websites, the internet contains mostly unorganised data, frequently of doubtful origin, instead of information. This effectively exacerbates the information overload rather than alleviates it.

    Searching the world wide web to see whether certain information exists (and potentially being faced with thousands of hits) and accessing information that one knows is there require very different …

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