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Technology & Innovation

Information Revolution Comes to Healthcare

Patients should have confidential, unrestricted access to their own medical history, say advocates in the UK. But will empowering patients help their health or overwhelm them?

What’s the Latest Development?

Within three years, healthcare advocates want Britain’s centralized, single-payer National Health Service to make electronic health records available to all patients. While patients currently have the right to access their medical histories, they can be given access to paper files only after a written request is approved. “The changes would enable patients to view their whole medical history, study the result of diagnostic tests and see what drugs they have been prescribed before.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Patient groups currently support the move to electronic filing so that the information revolution can be harnessed to benefit individuals’ health. Worries persist, however, among privacy advocates and the nation’s family doctors. Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Health records are among the most personal and sensitive information kept about patients and they must be protected.” Some family doctors may worry that such easy access to medical histories may make their patients skeptical of the care they receive.

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