Friday, 14 November 2008

The Dragon Didn't Have Teeth After All

Over the last week I have written here and here about giving a demonstration of the patient-access system that my GPs' surgery uses as part of a presentation given by B, who was my GP until his recent retirement. The presentation and demonstration was to be given to an audience of doctors at a medical education establishment in London and I was very nervous about it.

Delivering presentations and demonstrating computer systems were things that I used to do without turning a hair some years ago. However, my worsening depression and acute anxiety meant that I found these things impossible and facing an audience of unknown people filled me with horror. Since having to give up work I have not been required to do such things, and a few months ago I would not have contemplated doing it, but when B asked me to carry out the demonstration because he felt it would add impact to the presentation if done by a patient, I agreed without hesitation. I was still very nervous at the thought, but I have done quite a few things just recently that I would not have considered possible six months ago, so I was willing to give it a try.

The establishment was imposing and I couldn't help but feel nervous as I entered through its doors on Wednesday afternoon and awaited B's arrival so that we could check out the lecture theatre and its audio-visual facilities and discuss how we would approach the presentation. We encountered problems immediately because we found that I could not get logged into the system that I was supposed to be demonstrating.  This did not bode well for me.  However, B had a few screen shots of from the records of a fictitious patient so I went through these to familiarise myself with what they showed and accepted that if necessary I would use those; it wouldn't have the same impact as doing the demonstration for real with a live record, but it was better than nothing.  We chatted for a short while, then tried logging into the database again, and everything worked perfectly, so I ran through what I intended to show and say to B and he proclaimed himself more than satisfied.

At this point we had done all the preparation that we could so we left the lecture theatre and B took me through some of the areas of this august institution and we eventually found ourselves in the bar, where the president of the section to whom we were making the presentation greeted us and we all sat down to chat.  At this point I was still feeling quite calm (somewhat to my surprise) even when being introduced to more and more people who I didn't know.  Eventually  it was time for us to make our way to the lecture theatre, took our seats on the dais, and we were introduced to the audience by the president.  It was at this time, having looked at the sea of faces belonging to complete strangers spread out in front of me that I suddenly felt the well-known signs of anxiety overwhelming me; there was no way I could escape.

B started the presentation giving the background to the subject and explaining how a programme (PAERS) had been developed that interfaced with EMIS, the computer application used by 60% of GP surgeries in this country for patient records.  He explained how patients at the practice were asked what they would like to see in an application that would allow them access to their records and this information was incorporated.  It was at this point I got up to demonstrate the system logged in to the database, well I attempted to, but it just wasn't going to play, so I had to resort to using the screen shots which I had seen for the first time about two hours earlier and hope that I remembered the order in which they came.

After my demonstration during which I gave details of how I used the system to book appointments online, order repeat prescriptions and check any other information that I needed to, I handed back to B who completed the presentation.  There followed a question and answer session which had been scheduled for 20 minutes but in fact continued for over an hour.  At the end of it all, a vote of thanks was given to B and myself, and we departed to our dinner as guests of the institution.

Was the evening a success? The answer to that was a resounding yes, on more than one front.  We succeeded in showing the assembled doctors what was already possible as far as patient access to their records was concerned; speaking as a patient I was able to highlight the multitude of benefits that such access allowed me; and we seem to have convinced those present that it was something worth pursuing.  B and I have been invited to give another presentation next year, this time to an audience of GP Registrars, so it will be our chance to show the next generation of GPs what is possible and available.  On a purely personal note, it gave me an opportunity to  speak in front of a large group of unknown people while at the same time being supported by someone who knew how difficult this was for me and who could help me out if I appeared to falter.

I must, at this point, say that I really appreciated the kindness, courtesy, and genuine interest that was shown by all the members of the esteemed institution who invited B to give the presentation and to B for asking me to take part.  What had caused me a certain amount of anxiety before the event, particularly in respect to the audience, and that had caused me to suggest in this blog that I was putting myself in range of the dragon's teeth, actually turned out to be an experience from which I gained some confidence in my ability to do things again that I had not been able to do for so long.  
Thank you ladies and gentlemen, it was a pleasure meeting you all.


Anonymous said...

Very well done! :)

cb said...

Thanks for sharing this! Interesting stuff - and well done! I'm not sure I could have done that

Anonymous said...

Well done, never easy to speak in front of an audience but the more practice you get the easier it becomes.

madsadgirl said...

Thanks everyone. When I was working I regularly used to give long presentations at international conferences and it didn't hold any great terrors for me. My problems started about five or six years ago when my depression got much worse and I started to suffer terrible anxiety attacks. Wednesday evening was the first time that I have done anything like this for quite a few years, and to have given it to an audience who we knew may well take some convincing as to why patients should have the right to see their medical records at any time that they wanted. If you talk to patients about it, they are always very enthusiastic, but doctors are not always happy at the idea that the patient should see what has been written about a consultation. However, as it is now Department of Health policy that patients should receive a copy of anything that is sent out from hospitals with respect to consultations, GPs really don't have any excuse for not making the records available.

steph said...

Told ya! :-)

Very well done, MSG

Now weigh that up against the anxiety you feel when attending an OU tutorial and tell me which feels worse?

I'm mightily impressed 'cos I know I'd have found that presentation really difficult to do and I've never had an anxiety attack.

Can you hear my applause for you?