Health privacy a British hot button

Although most British consumers recognize the value of a nationwide electronic health record system, which the National Health Service (NHS) is developing, many are seriously concerned about the security of the new system, according to a survey released yesterday by the British Medical Association.

The research firm YouGov surveyed 993 British adults last month and determined that three out of four people would not mind a central computer system holding their health information. A similar number, 69 percent, said they would not have a problem with clinicians involved in their care sharing that information

But three-quarters of respondents also said they had concerns about information security, and 81 percent worried that people other than health care professionals could access their information.

NHS is in the second year of a 10-year, $20 billion electronic health records project. Connecting for Health is will provide 50 million NHS patients in England with EHRs that are accessible by 30,000 doctors.

“Patients recognize the value of having their health record held centrally but are concerned about who will have access to it, and for what purposes,” said Barbara Wood, co-chairwoman of the association’s Patient Liaison Group. “They are generally happy for their doctor or another health professional involved in their care to have access to their health record but they do have worries about nonclinicians having access.”

Wood added that patients also want access to their EHRs and be able to correct inaccurate information. She said patients are particularly concerned about doctors being able to record information unavailable to patients.

NHS officials must make patients aware of the EHR project “if it is to stand any chance of being accepted by the public,” she said. That sentiment echoes comments made earlier this week in Australia by Dr. Ian Reinecke, chief executive officer of Australia’s National E-Health Transition Authority. “Unless consumers are convinced of the privacy [of EHRs], it will be an impediment to adoption,” he said.

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