Paperless NHS – What’s the hold up?

After moving house a year ago, I had to change my GP surgery, having moved to a new catchment area. I registered at my new practice which was 26 miles down the road from my original doctors.

Four months after registering I needed to make an appointment. On my arrival the doctor took some details, and then went on to explain that he had not yet received my notes from my previous GP – to say I was shocked was an understatement!! I had wrongly assumed that all my previous GP had to do was send my notes over electronically to my new practice.

However, fast forward a few months, I decided on a career change – this is when I joined Highland Marketing. Within the first week of my new job, I was learning about health secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s ambitious plans to allow patients access to their records by 2015 and plans to have a paperless NHS by 2018.

This got me thinking – why is it that in 2013, I can easily access my bank details online, the DVLA can tell me when my car is not insured, taxed or if it does not have an MOT, yet it took over FOUR months for my health records to be sent 26 miles down the road? Surely online access, even in the form of an email should be standard practice!

This really does raise the question as to whether 2015 for patients to have online access to their GP records is in anyway realistic if practices a few miles down the road from each other do not have the ability or capability to share information between themselves.

A recent survey carried out for eHealth Insider conducted by found that when asked how ready they were to facilitate patient access to records, 43% of over 1,000 GP respondents said that they hadn’t even begun to address this yet. Surely with approximately 18-24 months before the deadline this issue cannot be ignored and must be addressed.

In fact, perhaps it raises the additional question of whether we need both – for GPs to be able to share and patients to have access (and ability to share) their records themselves. If GPs are too slow to share patient information then perhaps willing patients should start sharing electronic information with healthcare professionals as we please.

So what’s the hold up? Patient privacy is high up on the list – this I can understand, however my bank manages to keep my details secure, so why can’t the NHS keep patient details secure? There are several providers of solutions that do protect patient confidentiality so why is the NHS not using it? Is it lack of communication?  Using my example above the DVLA mix data and information from government and private sector organisations, proving that communication shouldn’t be an issue.  I could go on with my list, however I feel that the answer to all the questions comes down too lack of communication and the NHS’ inertia to embrace innovation.

I struggle to believe that with the widespread use of technology in all other walks of life that the vast majority of the population would not already assume that their health records are available to them online. Now more than ever is the time for the NHS to stand up and take notice that the only way forward is to embrace technology and move with the rest of the world!

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