Guest Blogger Marc Southern on Putting medical records in the hands of the patient

6th October 2014 by Neeta Camadoo

When online banking was first introduced it seemed like an alien concept. Now years later it’s part of everyday life. The new alien concept is online access to our personal medical records. Some patients are already looking at and using their medical records online; some are even able to create their own personal health records (PHRs). Electronic medical records (EMRs) aren’t new - most GPs and health organisations keep medical records using secure platforms such as EMIS. What is changing is that more patients will soon be able, and choose to have online access to their records. How is this happening? Currently 60% of GP surgeries have record systems that allow patients online access however, less than 1% offer this service. The Government has proposed that by 2015 every patient will have the option to view their records electronically. To implement this, several hurdles need to be overcome:
  • Interoperability issues need to be addressed - primary care medical records are currently held in 17 different third party platforms;
  • Data needs to be easily accessible - most of these third party systems have very specific, convoluted methods to access patients’ data.
To manage this, the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) launched the GP System of Choice (GPSoC) – a framework contract which funds GP IT systems for 75% of practices in England. GPSoC are creating data standards, and movement of medical records with the aim to help GPs get the best out of their clinical systems by improving interoperability. This will allow easier access to third party systems (APIs) and, crucially, promote digital engagement. All of this potentially opens doors to the patient – who can own, edit and import their medical records into PHRs and share with others. What can patients do with this data? marcsouthern_PHR Putting EMRs and PHRs into the hands of patients allows them to take charge of their health and access value added services that can potentially improve outcomes for them and others. Patients will become more important in managing their care and coordinating with others. By being in control of their records and deciding who has access, integrated care can be truly possible. Patients with chronic diseases are set to benefit, since only they have enough information to co-ordinate care across specialists. There are various types of PHRs at various stages of maturity, some examples include:
  • Microsoft’s HealthVault – patients can also create their own PHR that isn’t linked to an institution or private company
  • Healthlocker (on Microsoft’s HealthVault platform) – A tool provided by South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust to access care plans and keep track of health
  • Handlemyhealth – enabling patients to track and manage their health across primary and secondary care
To truly unlock the potential of PHRs, we need to unify health data across the various record repositories - as is happening with the Blue-Button model in the US. It’s easier said than done, but GPSoC is providing a framework for this to begin. As ubiquitous as online banking is now, will we be looking back in 15 years wondering why personal access to our health records took so long? Marc Southern helps pharmaceutical and healthcare companies understand, embrace and use digital media to communicate with their audiences. With 10 years of pharmaceutical and digital experience, he understands the rules and etiquette for engaging on health issues online and across social media.