The nation’s medical records are going online by 2015 as part of a consumerisation of the NHS under a digital strategy unveiled today.
Blighty's health service patients’ medical records will be made available online "securely" in three years’ time under the NHS Information Strategy.
Patients will be able to view and refer to the records, and share them with whomever they choose, the government said.
It’s a radical departure for a service that ferrets away patient information collected using pen and paper, often recording and re-recoding the same info.
The NHS has also wasted millions developing electronic patient records that invariably cannot be exchanged between different professionals and trusts.
Also under the NHS Information Strategy, the government is injecting a big dose of web-based communication and collaboration in to the NHS's dealings with the public.
Repeat prescriptions and test results will be made available online, speeding up availability and potentially curbing the NHS’ addiction to sending out letters that get lost or are contradicted by follow-on correspondence.
It’ll also be possible to contact GP surgeries by email and to book appointments online. The idea is to end the "8am rush" of trying to book a doctor the same day, of getting held in a holding pattern on the phone, or trying to track down the right person at the surgery.
The government also wants to introduce barcodes for use on medication in care homes, to cut down on mistakes that cause accidents and death by dishing out the wrong prescription. Pilots are currently underway to find out how this will work.
The government said it’s not going to tell doctors and nurses what technology they should use to deliver on the strategy, but would instead support them in picking "imaginative solutions". Meanwhile, the Royal College of GPs has agreed to help the rollout of electronic services and from next year the NHS Commissioning Board will be asked to work with the Royal College.
It’s reasonable to assume the government will be pushing the NHS to choose a provider to set up hosted and cloud-based email and collaboration services instead of standing up their own servers. That will potentially mean business for G-Cloud and CloudStore.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley pushed out a statement talking up the private sector’s use of the web as an inspiration, only he spoke of “patient power” rather than consumer power. “The internet has revolutionised how people shop, bank and travel," Lansley wrote, "and for too long health and care services have not been part of that revolution. Our strategy proposals will ensure that these services will become easier to understand, easier to access and will drive up standards of care.”
As any patient of the NHS knows, you don’t get much choice about the type of care you get, so this won’t be like shopping for flights or comparing bank accounts. That would require a bigger political change to the NHS itself.
Under the Information Strategy, Lansley said: “Every NHS patient will be able to say that 'no decision about me was made without me'.” ®