Google and Microsoft: The future of NHS records?

Department of Health CIO details medical record plans...
Written by Nick Heath, Contributor

Department of Health CIO details medical record plans...

NHS medical records

Patients will have more choice about where they store health records, said DoH CIO Christine ConnellyPhoto: Shutterstock

NHS patients in England will be able to host their medical records with companies such as Google and Microsoft under proposals detailed by the Department of Health's CIO.

Speaking at a Westminster e-Forum event, Health records, NHS IT and patient choice, in London, Christine Connelly detailed plans that could pave the way for patients to host their electronic medical records with private services including Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault.

At present patients who want to view an electronic version of their medical records are generally restricted to viewing their Summary Care Records through the NHS Healthspace website.

"The intention is to give individual patients the ability to take their information and load it up into a tool of their choice," Connelly said.

Connelly's stance on the use of private services to store health records echoes that taken by David Cameron, who in 2009 praised commercial healthcare services such as Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault as a cheaper alternative to viewing records through the NHS Healthspace website.

In what appears to be an indication that the DoH doesn't see a long-term future for the Healthspace website as a portal for viewing records, Connelly said: "We expect the market to provide these tools rather than the DoH. In the longer term we do not expect the DoH to be doing that."

The Healthspace site was criticised earlier this year after figures revealed that fewer than 3,000 people were using the portal to view their medical records.

Under the plans, Connelly said the patient would be given a copy of the record held by the doctor, rather than control over the medical record used by clinicians.

"Nobody is suggesting that control means that patients will be able to take everything out of the [NHS] system and delete it," she said.

She said the idea was to give patients the freedom to be able to cross reference and mash up their "health records with records of how they manage their life".

As an example of how people might share their records with others, Connelly said: "You might want to put them together as a family or with people with a similar condition."

Connelly said the Department of Health will publish an information strategy setting out how the department would bring about a "free flow of information in the health system".

Another way of improving information sharing that is being considered, Connelly said, is allowing patients to share information online about their experiences of a particular hospital, GP surgery or medical procedure - drawing parallels with comparison sites where tourists rate their experiences of a particular hotel or resort.

Other proposals she mentioned include giving doctors and health organisations access to data on the performance of their peers to spur them into adopting the best practice of high achievers and adopting common data and interoperability standards across the NHS to allow health bodies across the country to share information.

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