In Defense of and the Opportunity to Save Lives

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Drugby Angela Guess

James Mucklow and Peter Bull recently wrote for The Guardian, “A colleague of ours visited his out of hours doctor service because of a painfully swollen knee, a condition he’d had once before. While there, he asked whether they could see any useful information from a previous GP visit for the same condition. They could not access the information. The reason was not technical: GP systems store vast quantities of detail about your health electronically. It is because the information governance hurdles that GPs have to leap over to share the data between services are high and few have the patience or motivation to try.”

They continue, “If it is too hard to share your records among the various people and organisations who need to treat you, care will be poorly coordinated and more expensive because of wasteful duplication. It may also be unsafe because important facts will not be accessible, such as an allergy to a specific drug. Most patients assume that data relevant to their healthcare will be shared across the NHS and are frustrated and surprised when it is not. Of course, confidentiality is absolutely vital, and should always be protected with strong rules and systems, but it seems unreasonable to let fear of risk jeopardise our ability to coordinate and improve care.”

Mucklow and Bull add, “We should remember that central databases have a strong historic track record of using data appropriately. And, while there has been much public concern about – the national programme to share NHS patient data – the data is usually pseudonymised to protect patient confidentiality. Our work with hospital episode statistics (HES) data, which covers hospital activity, has shown that technology can make finding patterns in large health datasets both fast and easy. This offers a whole range of opportunities to drive improvements in the NHS and lead to better care.”

Read more here.

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