Sunday, February 27, 2005

Piles of paperwork

Sorry for the couple of days without a post, Doc and I have been burning the candle at both ends to get the Post Deployment Health Assessments out before our admin team leaves the area (btw, my new Doc works his butt off and isn't afraid of paperwork (good!)). Each one of these questionnaires is filled out by everybody that's about to go home. The Doc reviews them with the patient going over any possible medical problems or questions and if there is need for specialist care, he writes a referral for when we get back and fills out the Doc questionnaire on the back page. After the patient is done, we take the forms down to Admin and type everything that was handwritten into a data base, each form is 4 pages, 3 of questions filled out by the patient and 1 by the doc. I can type in the patient part then Doc has to fill in the provider portion. Over the last 36 hours we've done well in excess of 100 but less the 300. Sorry one of the rules in OPSEC is that we can't give out our troop strength, specially on a blog, just let me say it was quite a few.

It is a good process and we're not allowed to leave the country unless we have one of these forms in hand. It's just labor intensive for the medical staff while we're doing them but I'm not complaining because I like the program.

Things that are covered:

How many times were you sick, what illnesses or symptoms did you have (with 24 choices) during the deployment, vaccinations given, meds taken and possible environmental hazards that you might have been exposed to (lots of choices here too, if it's bad for you except smoking, it's covered here).

Then it gets into the psychological portion, asking if you had seen dead people, coalition, enemy or civilian. Have discharged your weapon, felt in danger of dying or interested in receiving help for stress that might have been caused by this deployment. It also asks about stressors, the answers you can check are none, some or a-lot, the questions are, interest or pleasure doing things, are you feeling depressed, thoughts that you would be better of dead or hurting yourself. My favorite question is "Have you ever had any experience that was so frightening, horrible or upsetting that, in the last month?" then it gives multiple yes or no answers underneath it; had nightmares about the experience, tried not to think about it, were constantly on guard, felt numb or detached. I've had the last one, just not in Iraq. In a past incarnation of myself, there was a period in my life where I was doing aircraft mishap investigations (part of my job as an Aviation Med Tech), after seeing so many shocking things. Shocking things become the norm. I've since recovered from that portion of my life but it did build a shield that has so far protected me from much of what bothers people in combat stress situations.

This form is a big step since the first Gulf War, we don't want some mystery Gulf War illness to sneak up on us, when we get back, everyone gives a blood sample that is stored at a repository in case something happens in the future (there was also one taken before we left to compare the two). After typing these damn things all day long the thought ran through my head that most of my readers have no clue about what we do for the troops before they come back and that we leave them for the wolves, yes there are those that don't get the help they need. This form physical is a step in the right direction, it's not perfect but it does concentrate on the problems that we have been running into with this current war and continuing further care once we get back to the rear.


I was talking with the corpsman down at Wing and we were discussing how much a pain in the ass these are to type in. An idea came up that maybe we should have the patients fill these out these forms online. Save a few trees, maybe something attached to the members MyPay account? It would keep us short staffed medical folk from sitting at a computer for days at a time, retyping everything. Once entered the patient presses a submit button, if something was missed, it would tell him. Submitted by the patient, it would be able to be pulled up by the doctor for the personal interview and digitally signed and printed there. A nice side onto this you can digitally write the consult at this time. Of course it likely won't happen because it makes too much sense. But if it does, you heard it first here!

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