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Health records – designed by the state for the state

Posted on: Monday 5th of July 2010

Some of you may be vaguely following the flip-flopping of the incoming Government over the design and use of patient records. A couple of weeks ago was a seminal report on the “summary care record”, described by the Health Service Journal as facing wicked problems.

The article is well worth a read:

The Department of Health-commissioned evaluation, by University College London researchers, says spread of the SCR is limited and, where it has been used, there is limited evidence of the benefits

The detailed evaluation comes to similar conclusions for HealthSpace – the government programme to give patients access to their summary record on the internet.

The report also confirmed the rapidly changing nature of the market:

“Deliberation on the future of the HealthSpace programme should take account of the availability of low-cost technologies for supporting self-management and the rapid pace of change in the market for such technologies. It should also reconsider the logic behind the policy-level link between ‘empowerment’ and a state-run online records service.”

Tellingly it was left to an anonymous commentator to sum up the problem in one paragraph… what use is the summary care record anyway?

Here is the principle problem with a summary care record: Why would I as a consumer ever want to see a “summary” of my health record. It is the one thing I know; the thing I carry around with me in my head every day. If I have a need to see my health record – and I may do every few years – it would be to see the detail I may have forgotten. I suspect the single most common prompt to accessing ones health record is to help fill out a life assurance application. These ask you to list all visits to a doctor over many years, to give dates, to give findings etc. As I understand it, none of this would be available in a summary record. Not very “patient first” me thinks.