Electronic health record issues exist on paper

One of the lead consultants for protection of online health records claims a lot of the issues that will arise have already surfaced with paper records

The fears around electronic health records are mirroring issues already being dealt with today on paper.

This is the belief of Geraldine Mynors, co-founder of consultancy firm Mynors Suppiah, who has written a guide for the public on how to keep their medical records safe.

The government has set a target that all medical records should be digitised by 2015, putting pressure on primary care organisations to get their practices ready for the move.

However, it has also caused concern as to whether the public will benefit or if vulnerable groups will be excluded.

When Computer Weekly asked Mynors if the government target was achievable with so many questions still left unanswered less than two years before the deadline, she said those same worries were already present in the current system.

“One of the things we encountered a lot through this work is all of these problems that are raised, tricky ethical issues and dilemmas, are not new problems. They are all problems which already exist with paper records,” she said.

“You already have an issue when you have a mother making an access request for her child’s record. What if there is something on that record about child protection or the suitability of the parents? How do you tackle those issues?”

Mynors said solutions have been in place for some time, but what is likely to cause an issue is the rising number of complaints that easier access will encourage.

“With online records, the scale of the incidents is going to be magnified tremendously. Suddenly, instead of the odd person making a subject access request and paying their 50p a sheet, it is going to be a big chunk of the population,” she added.

However, Mynors sought to reassure visitors to the HC2013 conference by saying the problems had been dealt with in the past so they could be dealt with again.

“A lot of these things have been thought through, and it is really a question now of translating this into guidance for clinicians, but also guidance for the public,” she concluded. “It is a translation job rather than an invention job.”  

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