Data watchdog backs electronic patient records

The Information Commissioner’s Office has given its support to patient record systems that allow open access to health professionals, despite concerns among GPs surrounding confidentiality.

The personal records watchdog said that systems that give access to patient records to those that are not directly involved in their care are unlikely to fall foul of the Data Protection Act.

A spokeswoman said that the commission had taken into account the need for a number of health professionals to gain access to information in many cases as well as the ethical integrity of health professionals.

She added that a further safeguard against data protection infringement was having an audit trail in place to detect when information is looked at inappropriately.

GPs’ joint IT committee chairman Dr Paul Cundy, who is concerned about confidentiality over a blood test system at his local hospital, St Helier, in Carshalton, said: ‘I just don’t think it is good enough to say that relying on professionalism means that there will not be an infringement. There needs to be more secure systems in place.’

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said that in the absence of more sophisticated systems he felt confident that professionalism and data trails were good enough deterrents to records system abuse.

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