Views & Reviews Personal View

Electronic patient records: reasons to be cheerful

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 14 February 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:390
  1. Jonathan Gornall, freelance journalist
  1. 1London

    Like many people, I use the internet for banking, email, shopping, and the transfer of sensitive personal documents, including tax returns. I take sensible precautions—such as declining to give my bank details to phishing fraudsters—and I trust it.

    Likewise, I’m relaxed about the prospect of my medical records being available digitally throughout the National Health Service. In fact, as the NHS Summary Care Record pilot scheme approaches its first birthday and enters its evaluation phase, in anticipation of national roll-out, I’m positively excited.

    I find it reassuring to think that should I ever find myself in an emergency department, the complete strangers fighting to save my life will have access to any vital personal information that could govern how they treat me.

    Also, I find it inspiring to think that the information harvested each year from millions of such encounters will be aggregated and analysed to ensure that the NHS is being managed as safely and as efficiently as possible for the benefit of all.

    Helen Wilkinson, a former general practice manager from Hampshire, does not share my equanimity. A few years ago, when she first got a whiff of NHS plans to centralise patient records, she took a look at her own file and discovered that a surgical procedure she had …

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