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This preliminary study indicates that in general practice:
(1) Acquisition of appropriate clinical information is more often than not dependent on prior information of a highly selected kind available economically only to a personal doctor.
(2) The amount of previous information which could be stored outside the brains of a personal doctor and his patient is relatively enormous and almost unlimited.
(3) But, the amount of this externally stored previous information which will ever be used, referred to, or be clinically useful is minimal.
(4) Logic branching systems for obtaining this essential clinical information for each episode are of two kinds. There is first the system which is universally appropriate to all patients and all diseases as a whole, a field in which the computer is becoming pre-eminent, but which also has its limitations. Secondly there is the highly personalised system, constituted by the clinical dialogue of the patient and his personal doctor, the structure of which, at present, defies any simplification and which we abandon at our peril.
(5) Continuing care by group-practice teams operating under one roof eliminates the need for fragmentation of primary clinical records.
(6) A simple up-dated manually-prepared paper summary of clinical problems encountered and therapeutic activity taken, may well be the essential core of this shared record. This would be backed up by the ad hoc clinical records of each health care professional as accessible, second level archives, conforming to some simple, systematic and universally accepted structure (Bjorn and Cross, 1970).
It would be of great interest to know whether or not the same conclusions would be drawn from a similar study of the selected clinical problems which are dealt with by the hospital-based specialist services.