Liam Farrell: The importance of patient screening

You should choose your patients more carefully than you choose your friends, I say, because your patients will be with you much longer.

My friends have come and gone, but Joe seems to have been with me forever, a pungent little black cloud on the horizon, the rumble of distant (and obnoxious) thunder at a summer picnic.

‘Cherish your enemies,’ observed Nietszche, ‘because they bring out the best in you.’ And over the years, admittedly, our relationship has become a little less adversarial; we’re not quite ready to start dating yet, but if Joe ever needs an organ donation he can have my prostate (this all sounds a bit homo-erotic, I know, but some bonds run much deeper than mere sex).

And like every beloved enemy, Joe always has some Sunday magazine conceit to whine about.

‘You spend all your time looking at your computer instead of me,’ he complained.

‘Listen buddy,’ I said. ‘I’m sick of all this look-at-me I-am-the-centre-of-the-earth my-name-is-Oyzmandias look-on-my-hernia-and despair crap.

‘First of all, you’re no oil-painting, though I accept that you have a certain Rubenesque quality.’

‘But my body is a temple,’ he said.

‘Sure it is,’ I agreed. ‘A big fat hairy temple.’

‘Secondly,’ I continued. ‘To input the precious information you disclose, I must look at the computer; I have to click this goddam mouse about a thousand times for each patient. But a demonstration is worth a thousand words; so tell me, why you are here today?’

‘I have a pain in my arm,’ said Joe, then added (as is obligatory) ‘It’s awful bad, I’ve been fighting it all week.’

‘OK,’ I said. ‘I shall now attempt to type that in without looking at the computer, to try to express how much you are suffering, whilst all the time staring into your baby-blue eyes.’

I then invited Joe to inspect the results, preserved for all eternity in his Electronic Health Record (which I understand is somewhere up there in The Cloud).

In accordance with the rules of universal humour, it read, ‘Joe is an awful pain in the arse.’

  • Dr Farrell is a GP from County Armagh. Follow him on Twitter @drlfarrell

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