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June 1, 1970

Paper Pollution

JAMA. 1970;212(9):1514. doi:10.1001/jama.1970.03170220068012

Reams, quires, and bound volumes of medical records are lying tier upon tier in hospital after hospital. In the heartland of practice, physicians are toiling under midnight oil to maintain a constant flow. And to what end? Indeed, while the records are harbored as if they contained "gold from them thar hills," doubt is expressed about their intrinsic value.1

The customs of medical documentation are inherited from medical schools and clerkship days when undergraduates were taught that comprehensiveness is praiseworthy, that long-windedness is a virtue to be cultivated and not discouraged. Now, as Gordon points out elsewhere in this issue (p 1502), "The profession is sinking deeper and deeper into the morass of medical documentation." Here is a case in point. Some passing attack of colic has been made the subject of two pages of diagrams of the belly and a mass of negative findings. Great white spaces of paper