Patients in the U.K. will have the ability to access their own electronic medical records and a plethora of other digital healthcare applications within a year, under plans to initiate a technology revolution throughout the National Health Service.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he wants one-quarter of smartphone users, which equals about 15% of all NHS patients, to have routine access to health service advice, services and medical records via apps by the conclusion of the next financial year.
Hunt added that by 2016, all patients should be able to view their own GP electronic records online in full and also to contribute to it, either by adding personal comments or transferring data directly from wearable devices.
By 2018, that record also will include data regarding all patients’ health and care interactions, providing up-to-date, potentially life-saving information to healthcare professionals at the press of button. By 2020, Hunt said, information from the social care system also is to be added.
The health secretary noted that in the U.K., about 84% of the population uses the Internet and 59% uses a smartphone, but only 2% has had any digital interaction with the NHS.
Barcodes to identify patients, medicines and equipment also will be introduced throughout the NHS as part of a drive to eliminate the system’s reliance on paper and to reduce errors, while the National Information Board continues to look at the possibility of making the entire NHS estate a free Wi-Fi zone.
Privacy remains a major concern, however, and admitting that the public’s trust in the NHS to securely handle its data remains tepid, Hunt pledged there will be new measures to assure the security of confidential medical data. Those will include a review of standards of data security throughout the NHS.