This site is intended for health professionals only

Doctors new ‘duty’ to use online patient records

26 November 2013

Share this article

A ‘duty’ to use and update electronic patient records could be introduced for health professionals, the government has announced. 

The first draft of a bill on online medical records was discussed in the House of Commons today. 

The bill would mean that every healthcare professional has a duty to use electronic patient records (EPR), updating them and ensuring that they are passed on. 

According to George Freeman, the MP for Mid Norfolk, access to data would empower patients while improving medical research. 

The bill would allow patients or their loved ones to submit their information for medical trials and input the side effects of their treatments. 

Freeman said: “We need to raise awareness of the power of accessing data. Patients who request to see their patient record should be seen as enlightened citizens. 

“We know there are a number of issues and challenges around the sharing of data, but we are working with key opinion leaders to overcome them. There is a clear and present risk of the UK becoming a backwater – talking the talk, but not walking the walk.”  

He said that if health professionals utilise EPR it would become less of a chore and more of an “essential tool for ensuring continuity of care”. 

But professional indemnity providers the Medical Protection Society (MPS) has revealed concerns that without safeguards patients would be unable to benefit from the new system. 

In an MPS survey of doctors and the public, 80% of the public and 85% of MPS members said they would be concerned for the security of medical records if they become accessible online. 

Freeman, in his presentation to the House of Commons, said that family members or carers would be able to access the patient record using only an NHS number. 

And in the MPS survey, patients expressed concerns about people other than those in the medical profession accessing their records. More than two thirds (69%) of the public agreed that their medical records should only be accessed by healthcare professionals. 

Dr Stephanie Bown, MPS director of policy and communications said: “We have to be mindful of the risks patients face with online access to medical records, particularly in ensuring their private information is safeguarded.

“We need to ensure that patients will receive support to look after their personal data and give careful consideration as to whether particularly sensitive information should have restricted access to provide extra peace of mind for patients.

“It will not be enough to just equip patients with the ability to access their medical records online; patients need to be supported and informed about how to understand and use their information safely, appropriately and effectively.” 

The second reading of the bill will be on 17 January 2014.