Feeds

Report damns health records scheme

'Benefits yet to be realised, hard to articulate and difficult to isolate'

Boost IT visibility and business value

A detailed review of the Summary Care Record programme and HealthSpace - its related "portal" - by University College London has found only "modest benefits" from the scheme.

Researchers found records are not widely available, and where they are available they're not always accessed by doctors. Where doctors do access them they are aware of inaccuracies and "clinicians use their judgement when interpreting such data and take account of other sources of information including the patient".

The three-year study found no direct evidence of an improvement to patient safety although findings were consistent with "a rare but important impact of the SCR on reducing medication errors". The records had no impact on consultation times but did lead nurses and doctors to find such consultations easier and less stressful.

Lead author Professor Trisha Greenhalgh, said: “This research shows that the significant benefits anticipated for these programmes have, by and large, yet to be realised – and that they may be achieved only at high cost and enormous effort. When we did find them, they were subtle, hard to articulate and difficult to isolate. It serves to demonstrate the wider dilemma of national databases: that scaling things up doesn’t necessarily make them more efficient or effective.

A Department of Health spokesman welcomed the report and said its findings would be considered.

He said: "Broadly our view is that we see a need for both patients and clinicians to be able to access patient records in an electronic form. This is part of our thinking about making information transparent and available, while involving patients in decisions about their healthcare.

"Specifically in relation to the Summary Care Record, we believe the current processes that are in place need reviewing to ensure that both the information that patients receive, and the process by which they opt out, are as clear and simple as possible. Also, we see a need to review the content of the record and to agree with key stakeholders what should be added to the record and over what timescale.

"Using Summary Care Records effectively depends on patients and doctors feeling an ownership of these records, so that care is focused on patients' wishes delivered by clinicians exercising their professional judgement."

HealthSpace is an online personal health portal designed to let patients access their own records and, if they have an "advanced" account, communicate with their GP over a secure connection. Apparently this wonderful website would empower patients to self-manage their records, improving data quality and access to services.

In reality one person in 200 who was asked to open a basic HealthSpace account actually did so. Out of those only one in a thousand went on to open an advanced account.

The few people who did use the service found it limited and failed to see any benefits from it. But people who were allowed to email their GP thanks to the portal "enjoyed being able to bypass a busy reception desk".

The summary of the report is here.

The Foundation for Information Policy Research said UCL's report showed the summary care record programme was bringing in very few benefits and had the potential to do real harm and therefore should be scrapped. FIPR warned that the SCR programme was "another spectacularly badly-managed public-sector IT project. It cost a lot of money, and is not much used." ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Adam Afriyie MP: Smart meters are NOT so smart
Mega-costly gas 'n' 'leccy totting-up tech not worth it - Tory MP
'Blow it up': Plods pop round for chat with Commonwealth Games tweeter
You'd better not be talking about the council's housing plans
Arrr: Freetard-bothering Digital Economy Act tied up, thrown in the hold
Ministry of Fun confirms: Yes, we're busy doing nothing
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
Apple smacked with privacy sueball over Location Services
Class action launched on behalf of 100 million iPhone owners
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Backing up Big Data
Solving backup challenges and “protect everything from everywhere,” as we move into the era of big data management and the adoption of BYOD.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.