GP who invented Read codes has died

The inventor of the Read coding system that revolutionised general practice has died.

Dr James Read, who began to develop Read codes in the 1980s, died earlier this month.

Wiltshire GP and IT expert Dr Gavin Jamie said Dr Read would forever be associated with his 'ubiquitous, frequently puzzling and occasionally hilarious codes'.

'They are the essential feature which allowed the development of practice systems into proper health records,' he said.

'Despite several attempts to replace them, they have endured and there seems little chance of their disappearing in the foreseeable future.'

Bedfordshire GP Dr Mary Hawking said that without Read codes, a considerable amount of work conducted in general practice, including QOF, would not be possible.

'All of the data that GPs use, the whole way it works is based on Read codes,' she said. The codes also solved problems of GPs' poor handwriting and of differential diagnosis, she added.

Professor Frank Sullivan of Dundee University's school of primary care commented: 'Without the logical yet adaptable structure of the Read codes' structured vocabulary, it is unlikely that the benefits to patients from safer and more efficient electronic patient records would have been achieved so quickly and comprehensively.'

Health informatics expert Ewan Davis pointed out that Read codes had also played a part in making UK general practice the global leader in the use of computers at the point of care.

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