Press Release - Medical Records Conference 17 July 1997

"Have your records been doctored? New imperatives for health and medicine

A conference convened by the Australian Science Archives Project and the
Centre for the Study of Health and Society, University of Melbourne.17 July

PRESS RELEASE - available immediately

"Medical Records identified as the key to building better health care in
the next millennium."

At an unusual meeting held yesterday at the University of Melbourne, a
selection of leading Victorian academic and practising doctors, health care
administrators, medical records administrators, lawyers, medical historians
and archivists confronted our ailing health-care system. 

The conference, 'Have your records been doctored?', was opened by Professor
Richard Larkins, Head of the National Health and Medical Research Council,
and went on to examine the connection between good recordkeeping and good
medical practice and research. Discussion focused not only on the factors
that go into creating good records but also why we need to create records
that will endure. 

Doris Young, Head of the General Practice Unit, Department of Public Health
and Community Medicine, University of Melbourne said that the prime concern
was to improve the quality of patient care. The radical improvement of
clinical record creation and keeping was an important element in achieving
this goal. The introduction of new information technologies offers many
possibilities but we had to watch the security of private and confidential
information. The propensity for much of this new technology to fail with
disastrous consequences for data and record loss was also noted in discussion.

John Snowden, a solicitor with over twenty years experience in the health
law area stated that the best defense in court for either an organisation
or an individual was to have created and maintained good records. Poor and
sloppy records indicated a poor and sloppy workplace and that  the complete
and unaccountable lack of records implied downright deceit. Judges and
juries have little trouble in deciding against the defendant in such cases.

However, with the rapid increase of record creation over the last few
decades the problems of storage, management and access have become major
problems for archivists, medical records administrators and health care
administrators. Cases of ad-hoc and very ill-considered destruction of
valuable records were graphically illustrated.

Gavan McCarthy, Director of the Australian Science Archives Project,
University of Melbourne said that the new information technologies offer
the tools to manage these large quantities of records in a ways that could
not have been conceived even three years ago. There should be no excuse for
a CEO randomly destroying valuable medical records. We have the tools to
allow people to make informed decisions - let's use them.

A working group has been formed from key participants of the conference to
maintain the interdisciplinary dialogue and look to the establishment of a
more formal body to extend this work. They have established a website at 
for those wanting more detail.

Further information:

Dr Warwick H. Anderson
Acting Director
Centre for the Study of Health and Society
The University of Melbourne
ph 03 9344 7168

and / or

Gavan McCarthy
Australian Science Archives Project
The University of Melbourne
ph. 03 9344 9287
*   Gavan McCarthy - Director                          
*    Australian Science Archives Project                         
*     University of Melbourne                                         
*       203 Bouverie Street
*        Carlton, Vic. 3053 Australia                                  
*         gavan@asap.unimelb.edu.au                             
*          Phone: +61 3 9344 9287 Fax: +61 3 9349 4630
*           ASAPWeb! on http://www.asap.unimelb.edu.au/          
* ------->Recovering Science and Technology in Australia