Government admits security issues remain on electronic health record

The government has admitted much more work has to be done on patient security and confidentiality concerns, associated with allowing pharmacists access to patient Summary Care Records (SCRs).

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While SCRs would also help pharmacies treat patients by providing access to patient-specific information, the DfH said: “It is important that mechanisms are in place to fully address concerns about patient consent and maintaining patient confidentiality.”

The DfH admitted that maintaining the security and confidentiality of this data could be a challenge. “The NHS Care Record Guarantee [which promises careful and secure patient data handling] has been drawn up and agreed by key parties as to what patients have a right to expect about how any information about them in the Care Record Service may be stored, used, shared and transmitted.

“However, there have been specific concerns about the use of the Care Record Service in community pharmacies, also often thought of as a retail setting.”

It said the government, the Clinical Reference Panel, the National Advisory Group and Patient Advisory Group, together with professional and representative organisations, would examine the effects of this by monitoring an early adopting primary care trust. In addition, as pharmacists offered more advice, “Consideration will also be given to how community pharmacists may be able to utilise other services such as ‘Choose and Book’,” the DfH said.

On the Care Records website, the NHS says: “Each time you use an NHS service, more information may be added to [the SCR] ... As new information is added to your Summary Care Record, you can discuss what is being added and how sensitive information is handled. You will be told about this before your Summary Care Record is ready so that you have time to consider your options.”

The DfH paper highlighted the importance of technology in also making sure patients received the correct medicines, in the right quantities and at the right time, and added that they would be able to go straight to pharmacists for repeat prescriptions.

The DfH said that the incorrect supply of medicine to patients was a serious issue, and that if no action were taken to stop it, it could cost the NHS more than £750 million each year in England alone. “New technologies reduce mis-selection and misidentification,” it stated.

The government said that 79 percent of pharmacies and 64 percent of doctors’ surgeries were now operating the first release of the much touted electronic prescriptions service, and were experiencing efficiency gains as a result. The EPS is designed to eventually enable GPs and nurses to send prescriptions electronically to pharmacies.

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