‘Paperless NHS’ plan to put patients’ medical details online

Guardian Paperless NHS Plans

I’ve mentioned before how nonsensical I think it is for an affluent government that’s bloated with paper and doesn’t even offer online voting (never mind the SMS voting that citizens of Estonia have access to) to be hyping the case for a rush to make the National Healthcare Service paperless. But this Guardian article really highlights some of the key misunderstandings that exist when it comes to the governments vision of what it sees to be the “digital health challenge”.

My thoughts:

“The vision I’m thinking of is an ambulance driver answering a 999 call should be able to look up a patient’s medical record on their way to their home, so they’ll find out the person they are going to see is a diabetic who had two falls last year, who has a heart condition,” he said.

It’s been many moons since ambulance drivers answered 999 calls (in 2013 these are answered by specially trained emergency medical dispatcher/call handlers). It’s also not something that you want from a road safety perspective.

I think this would’ve been much more powerful had Jeremy Hunt talked of a vision that highlighted the mHealth opportunities that surround emergency services:

> For a decade now the vast majority of 999 calls made in the UK have emanated from mobile phones
> Many patients already opt to register their mobile number with their GP
> It would take very little to enable an opt in by SMS system that would enable patients to link their mobile number with their NHS Summary Care Record so that whenever they shared this info with an Emergency Medical Dispatcher (via a call from their registered mobile using Caller ID or by simply sharing it eg. you could have your Mobile # engraved on your SOS Talisman Bracelet) who could add important medical information that would support continuity of care.
> How a ‘mobile first’ system like this would support an incredible environment for innovation eg. by enabling the effective use of M2M tech (like mobile connected Smoke Alarms and Care Monitors), 3G Video Emergency Calls, etc

Hunt noted that NHS staff and patients were more tech savvy than a decade ago, with two-thirds of people banking online, for example. “If banks can develop systems where people are confident about their money, it must be possible for the NHS to develop systems where people are confident about their privacy,” he said. “But we need to earn the public’s trust on this”

I’m surprised that a health secretary would use such a poor analogy. To most people their medical privacy and bank account info are two very different things. If the bank loses my money they can provide me with comprehensive remedial action (eg. they can just give me all my money back plus some vouchers and a few years free banking) whereas with my medical information once it’s out there I might never discover that it’s being used and there is no practical way for anyone to make it confidential again.

publish an ambitious timetable for implementing the plan: in 2014 he wants hospitals and GPs to be able to access and update GP records, by 2015 all patients should be able to see their own records online, and by 2018 the aim is for every part of the NHS and social care to be connected

I can imagine many patients are going to be extra careful about what they share with Doctors when they learn that ‘every part’ of the NHS and social care is connected. As Nick Pickles, Director of the privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, warns it “could be extremely dangerous for care” if patients feel this discourages them from honestly “sharing information with their doctor”.

What do you think?

About David Doherty

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2 Responses to ‘Paperless NHS’ plan to put patients’ medical details online

  1. Pingback: INSIDE mHealth (01/02/13) - Dot Comms

  2. Pingback: INSIDE mHealth (03/02/13) - Dot Comms

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