Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that he aims to get a quarter of UK smartphone users – 15 per cent of all NHS patients – using apps to access NHS advice, services and medical records by the end of the next financial year – effectively, by the end of March 2017.
“I also want patients not just to be able to read their medical record on their smartphone, but to be able to add to it, whether by recording their own comments or by plugging in their own wearable devices to it,” he said at the NHS Innovation Expo in Manchester.
Hunt claimed that by 2016, all patients should be able to access their own GP electronic record in full. This would include allergies, medication, blood test results, appointment records and other data. By 2018, he said that this record would also incorporate information from all of their health and care interactions.
The Health Secretary suggested that other countries that had opened up access to medical records had seen a “profound change in culture in a way that is transformative for people with complex or long-term conditions”.
By the end of 2018, NHS England states that all doctors and nurses will be able to access up-to-date information about their patients across GP surgeries, ambulance services and A&E departments.
“We will only really be putting patients first if we can give them confidence that every part of the system knows their care plan, is up to date with their progress and doesn’t need them to repeat their story time after time,” said Hunt.
But having access to the data is just one part of the issue. The other is to ensure that personal medical data is being held securely, and Hunt admitted that the NHS has not yet won the public’s trust in this area.
“Nothing matters more to us than our health, and people rightly say we must be able to assure the security of confidential medical information,” he said.
He explained that a number of measures would be put in place to assure the security of confidential medical data, including a review of standards of data security for this type of data across the NHS, to be carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Dame Fiona Caldicott, the “national data guardian” for health and care will contribute to this review by developing guidelines for the protection of personal data against which every NHS and care organisation would be held to account.
NHS England claims that she will also provide advice on the wording for a new model of consents and opt-outs to be used by the controversial care.data programme.
The work is scheduled to be completed in January, with recommendations to be given to organisations thereafter.
The NHS may have some work to do to improve the apps it has available, as in June this year it was found that its review criteria for its Apps Library was “weak”, and furthermore, that some of the apps still fail to meet even that standard.