DH Information Revolution

Digital Pharma: NHS to lead an ‘information revolution’

pharmafile | October 19, 2010 | News story | Medical Communications Digital Pharma blog, electronic patient records, patient information 

Patients could soon be able to contact their doctor online as part of government plans for an ‘information revolution’ in healthcare.

Other measures under consideration include allowing the public to keep an electronic copy of their care record and seeking opinions on how to best bridge the ‘digital divide’.

The plans are contained within the Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS White Paper, which yesterday set out coalition proposals to give people more control over their own care.

These will see two consultations held, the first on patient choice, which the health secretary said would be guided by the principle of “no decision about me, without me” and extend from choice of GP to which consultant-led team patients are treated by.

The second consultation will look at how the NHS can lead “an information revolution, arming people with comprehensive information and data on all aspects of their health and adult social care”.

This will initially focus on giving people more control over their patient care records, but the plans stretch far wider and will see views sought on:

• Patients and service users keeping a copy of their care record themselves, and sharing that copy as they see fit with others

• Encouraging GPs and other care professionals to enable patients and service users to communicate with them, and to access services, online

• How to ensure confidentiality and privacy of personal information

• Promoting shared decision-making between patients and healthcare professionals, and information to support that

• The types of information needed for patients, service users and their carers to make fully informed choices

• The role for technology and information to play in supporting self-care at, or close to, home

• Information that can help people to make healthy choices, and act as the basis for taking more responsibility for their own health and well-being

Director general for informatics Christine Connelly said: “We live today in an information rich environment. The information we have changes our perspective and influences the decisions we make each and every day. The time has come to apply these principles to the delivery of health and care services.

“Building from a base of accurate care records the Information Revolution will deliver more informed patients, more engaged professionals, more efficient organisations and, ultimately, improved outcomes.”

In the UK there are more than nine million who have never been online, and in a nod to this ‘digital divide’ the public will be asked: “How can the Information Revolution help everyone? Including people who do not use computers or need help using them.”

A spokesperson for NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action) said: “Patients need the best possible information if they are to be able to exercise choice and control over their care.

“We are particularly keen to ensure that strategies are put in place to engage with the most excluded individuals and groups in our communities.”

The Information Revolution consultation will close on 14 January 2011 and the government will then publish an information strategy detailing its next steps.

Prior to this the health secretary will take part in a webchat about the Information Revolution and Patient Choice consultations, details of which will be published on the Department of Health Twitter feed.

Dominic Tyer is web editor for Pharmafocus and InPharm.com and the author of the Digital Pharma blog He can be contacted via email, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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