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There's no substitute for a pharmacist's expertise

Let patients access all the information they want, says Xrayser – we can never be replaced by Wikipedia

According to the paper this week, NHS England has spent an estimated £200,000 on iPads – more than almost all of Whitehall. It spent another £1.2 million on nearly 2,000 iPhones. What a waste! No, not because they should have bought Android-based kit, but because "better connected" doesn't mean "better outcomes".

Connections, information, resources, data – whether we've got too much or not enough, everyone's in on the act. Last week I was reading the GP's equivalent of C+D magazine, called Pulse, which has load of ads for smartphone apps. There's one that works out the details of hosiery to prescribe. But, disappointingly, you can't just point the phone's camera at the leg and have the app tell you the measurements – you still have to get a tape measure out – so I reckon most busy GPs will revert to picking a random stocking from the computer list, and amending it by hand to ask for a non-existent combination such as Class 1, open-toe, extra-small in Dove Grey.  

Now, despite having been a student in a world before Xbox and iPads (yes, young people – how did we manage to have fun and communicate in those antediluvian days before the technological flood washed over the civilised world?), I am the first to seek a computerised or online solution.

I am the first to seek an online solution: no more need to stick chapter tabs into the BNF or risk a hernia from handling the Data Sheet Compendium

No more need to stick chapter tabs into the BNF, risk a hernia from handling the Data Sheet Compendium, or tie up the phone line trying to get an answer from NPA information or the superintendent's office. Instead we have browser tabs open for online BNF, eMC, and – the most important pharmaceutical resource of all – Google. And yet, like the hosiery app, that isn't enough on its own.

At least some patients realise this, like the guy who walked in clutching a sheaf of papers and asked for "just 10 minutes of your time" during the Friday evening surgery rush. Unfortunately, we'd had so many scripts for urgent specials and other obscure drugs that I was beginning to lose track of which phone number went with which script, so he incurred the Xrayser version of a Paddington Bear stare.

"That's OK," he said when we finally got to look at his Wikipedia print-outs of his wife's drugs, "The thing is, I've got all this, but I can't make head nor tail of it." And that's why a prescription vending machine will no more make us redundant than when you could access the Encyclopaedia Britannica at your local library. Just because people can now get that data sitting at home in their pants, it doesn't make our understanding any less necessary.

Too often we confuse knowledge with action, yet reading about dieting doesn't make us slimmer. And so, NHS England beware, it's not the amount of information you have, it's what you do with it that counts.

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