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NHS patient records in England to be accessible online by 2015

NHS patient’s records in England will be published online by 2015 as part of a drive to modernise the health service under a new strategy unveiled yesterday.

The Department of Health’s The Power of Information strategy wants patients to be able to ‘securely’ view records online in three years’ time, records which have up until now been kept on paper in hospital archives.

Records will be accessible by patients online who will have the ability to share them with GPs and “anyone they choose to.”

NHS patient records in England to be accessible online by 2015

The idea is that it’ll be easier to obtain test results, ending the wait for a letter in the post, repeat prescriptions will be available to order online and it will be possible to contact GPs and surgeries by email.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said in a statement: “Our health and care reforms are about making life easier for people. If people are going to be able to choose, with their doctor, which hospital will provide them with the best care they will need all the latest information. Our plans will ensure that they get this from their doctors as well as online from websites and cutting edge apps. By pushing ahead with our information revolution we will ensure that every NHS patient will be able to say that “no decision about me was made without me”.

Digital pens for midwives, QR codes for medicine bottles

Currently, patients of London’s Wells Park Practice and Dr. Amir Hannan’s practice in Greater Manchester can freely access GP records online. From next year, the NHS Commissioning Board will be asked to work with the Royal College of GPs to work wirth patient groups and organisations on promoting this in other areas.

Elsewhere in the Department of Health’s report there’s talk of midwides using “low cost digital pens to write up case notes,” to free up time spent on typing up notes and the barcoding of medication to prevent prescrition errors.

In a Department of Health YouTube video, Lansley says “as a patient, why shouldn’t you have the very best information about the services that are provided, whether its in your GP practice or in hospitals across the country? Why shouldn’t you be able to see where the service is best provided?”

In the report, Lansley is quoted saying: “The internet has revolutionised how people shop, bank and travel, and for too long health and care services have not been part of that revolution… It’s time to make patient power a reality and take the hassle out of using the health service.”

While we’re all making the NHS more convenient, our inner cynic wonders whether or not Landsley, instrumental in the Health and Social Care Act 2012, might have been thinking of ‘purchase power’ instead of ‘patient power.’

Our inner skeptic also wonders how secure patient’s data will remain once it’s online. Previous UK Government administrations haven’t had a great track record of securing sensitive information. Accessing patient records may be a slow and bureaucratic process at the moment and, while we’re not security experts, we reckon that it’d be pretty hard to hack into piles of paper.

Links to the Department of Health’s press release here, and the full strategy report here.