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The electronic transmission of patient's pathology results from labs to doctor's surgeries in the UK is to be protected using digital certificates from ViaCode, Royal Mail's encryption business.

ViaCode digital certificates will protect the integrity, accuracy and confidentiality of patient information of the NHS Information Authority's (NHSIA's) national pathology messaging service. The system has been in trail for some weeks and is been made available to doctor's surgeries.

Patrick O'Neill, a spokesman for Royal Mail, told us pathology results from blood tests and the like has been done through the mail but the new system offers a far speedier alternative.

"Some doctors have rightly been cautious about Internet technology but we believe the service is complementary to what they want to do. As they see how it works, and understand that messages are kept secure, we believe GPs will become more comfortable with the technology," he said.

Message integrity, along with confidentiality, was a key concern in setting up the system.

Linda Ellis, a spokeswoman for NHSIA, said: "You can imagine the horrific consequences of treating a patient on the basis of a blood sugar result that has gained or lost a zero in transmission when two could be too low and 20 too high."

ViaCode encryption, which uses 128-bit cryptography and certificates only issued after rigorous identity checks, meet the strict security protocols required by the British Medical Association.

Technology vendor Entrust selected ViaCode to supply a managed certificate authority service working in conjunction with the NHS EDIFACT messaging service along with 210 pathology laboratories and 9,000 health practices.

Using ViaCode the NHSIA have saved on the initial certificate technology start up costs and outsourced messaging security to a trusted provider, avoiding the need to dedicate its own sys admins to the project. ®

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