I said I would return to the subject of the introduction electronic patient records in the National Health Service.
I will nail my colours to the mast from the outset – I am a great fan of electronic notes. I actually believe most clinicians working in the NHS are also fans in principle.
I look forward to an electronic system that means wherever I am as a patient in the UK (or indeed wherever I am in the world) the health professionals involved in my care can log in and see my health record wherever I happen to be. I am convinced this will improve patient safety and could save lives.
The main concerns appear to be about security of information and whether our information is safe or not.
This has been highlighted in recent scandals in other government departments such as the Tax Office and Child Benefit where CD’s containing personal information have apparently been ‘lost.’
It goes without saying we need to make sure there are strict safeguards built in to the NHS electronic patient records system to ensure no such ‘accidents’ happen with our personal health records.
I certainly do not want a system that is so insecure that my health records may end up for public viewing!
There are also concerns about who will have access to view patient’s notes within the NHS. Will all staff for instance have access to all patients’ notes? The short answer is no. Modern software easily enables restricted access and the issue of access to non clinical staff is less of a security risk than we currently have with paper notes.
I will share a story to illustrate my point.
When I was 16 years of age I joined the NHS straight from school as a very junior clerk. One of my first jobs was in the medical records department. As a 16 year old - and very green around the ears - I had total access to all the patients’ notes of that particular hospital. That is how secure/insecure patient’s paper notes are in reality in a hospital. So the idea that paper records are more secure than electronic records is totally flawed in my opinion.
Also there are numerous examples over the years of paper notes ‘getting lost.’
I share concerns of all who worry about the security implications. I think we have to make sure whatever electronic system the NHS finally plumps for gives the patients the guarantees they need about security.
I hope patients support the principle of the electronic record because this is definitely the way forward.