UK pledges patient health data revamp to accelerate treatment


Boris Johnson’s government promised to revamp health care data in England to give patients easier access to test results, medication lists and care plans — and for records to be shared between systems to speed up treatment.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the move would deliver “better patient-focused care” by transforming the way data is used across health and care sectors. It would ensure clinicians have up-to-date medical information so they can make quicker, more informed decisions, he said.

But the draft strategy, published Tuesday and open to a public survey for one month, is likely to trigger a fresh debate over the risk of sharing of confidential data across the National Health Service.

Ministers have already been forced to delay by two months the creation of a digital database using records from family doctors, after concerns were raised that the data would be accessible to outside organisations.

This wider data strategy — which has long been touted by Hancock as a way of cutting bureaucracy in the NHS — aims to give patients more power to manage their own appointments and get their test results from across all parts of the health system through smartphone apps.

“Data saves lives,” Hancock said in an emailed statement. “The pandemic has taught us we must be bold and the great strides we have made on vaccines and treatments during this time have been made possible by the way we use data.”

In a bid to reassure patients over data sharing, the Department of Health said the NHS is committed to “using data lawfully, with respect, and holding it securely with the right safeguards in place.”

The strategy would also use personal data to “analyse key trends in the health of the nation,” it said. This could improve services in local communities or better prepare for future diseases, according to the department. – Bloomberg

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