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Hunt says online record access will contribute to ‘zero harm’ NHS

Online access to medical records as part of a wider trend to embrace new technology in the NHS can bring will contribute to a ‘zero harm’ NHS, health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said.

In a speech to delegates at the Healthcare Innovation Expo in London yesterday, Mr Hunt said that paper records, which can only be accessed by one doctor at a time in a given location, can lead to complications, the repetition of diagnostic tests and patients having to repeat their medical history.

He said embracing technological innovations such as these could lead to the ‘zero harm’ culture in the NHS crucial in the light of the scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, where poor care was found to have lead to patient deaths.

Electronic records would allow clinicians anywhere in the country to access a patient’s history, give patients control of their own care and allow anonymised data to be used for research purposes and also feed into his vision for a ‘paperless’ NHS by 2018, he said.

He pointed to the USA, where military veterans who have their own system similar to the NHS can access their medical records, and 20,000 veterans every month download their records. He added that the situation is similar in Denmark, where hospital records are available and this year access to GP records is being introduced.

The RCGP recently published a report-commissioned by the Government- into online access to general practice, after plans for patients to be able to access their medical records online by 2015 were first laid out in Chancellor George Osborne’s Growth Review in 2011.

The report advocated prospective access to online access to medical records, but ruled out retrospective access as this would overburden practices with work.

Mr Hunt said: ‘We need to embrace the time—saving efficiency and productivity that technology and innovation can unleash… This should make closer the zero harm NHS that is such a priority in the wake of mid-Staffs.’

He added: ‘One thing more than anything else that will drive innovation is electronic patient records. Paper records can only be in one place at a time, only seen by one person at a time so they are no use to a patient on holiday in Gloucester if they’re file is in in a Doddington GP surgery.’

‘Unaware of a patient’s full history, complications arise in surgeries, diagnostic tests are repeated and patients find themselves repeating their medical history over and over again, sometimes several times on the same day.’

‘Whether giving patients control of their own care, or allowing vast amounts of anonymised data to be used in the research of new drugs and treatments, the potential for fully electronic records is huge and about to be realised.’

He went on to announce that healthcare company Johnson and Johnson will open a ‘centre for innovation’ in London, along with centres in Boston, Shanghai and San Francisco.

The centre will focus on technologies in areas including dementia, cancer, infectious disease, immunology and biomarkers for disease.

Pulse Live: 30 April – 1 May, Birmingham

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