POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Electronic Health Records

Published Monday, February 8, 2016

A POSTnote which explains the plans to introduce electronic health records for everyone. As well as background on what information such records will contain, the paper discusses the opportunities and challenges implementing them will involve.

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Electronic Health Records

Electronic health records contain information about patients’ medical histories, health, care preferences and lifestyles (such as diet and exercise). It is intended that they will eventually be accessible to primary, secondary and social care providers, as well as to patients themselves. The NHS currently holds patient information in a variety of settings, both in paper form and electronically. Some health records are already stored electronically by GPs, hospitals, mental health providers and in some community care settings, but in a variety of formats which cannot always be easily shared. NHS England intends to connect electronic health records across primary, secondary and social care by 2020.

Health Secretary outlines vision for use of technology across NHS, September 2015

This system would allow people to monitor their own health and it is proposed that it will improve patient safety and health outcomes. Electronic record keeping would also aid the collection of health data for research, and inform the commissioning of health and care.

However, there are a number of challenges which are discussed in detail in the briefing:

  • managing the interoperability of IT different systems
  • implementing the systems in health settings and training staff
  • opening up the records systems so that patients can access them
  • consequences for the doctor-patient relationship
  • data security, privacy and secondary uses of patient data

POSTnotes POST-PN-0519

Authors: Sarah Bunn; Jennifer Crane

Topics: Health services, Health staff and professions, Information technology, Medical ethics, Science

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.