Sharing electronic health records: The patient view
The introduction of a national electronic health record system to the National Health Service (NHS) has raised concerns about issues of data accuracy, security and confidentiality. The primary aim of this project was to identify the extent to which primary care patients will allow their local electronic record data to be shared on a national database. The secondary aim was to identify the extent of inaccuracies in the existing primary care records, which will be used to populate the new national Spine. Fifty consecutive attenders to one general practitioner were given a paper printout of their full primary care electronic health record. Participants were asked to highlight information which they would not want to be shared on the national electronic database of records, and information which they considered to be incorrect. There was a 62% response rate (31/50). Five of the 31 patients (16%) identified information that they would not want to be shared on the national record system. The items they identified related almost entirely to matters of pregnancy, contraception, sexual health and mental health. Ten respondents (32%) identified incorrect information in their records (some of these turned out to be correct on further investigation). The findings in relation to data sharing fit with the commonly held assumption that matters related to sensitive or embarrassing issues, which may affect how the patient will be treated by other individuals or institutions, are most likely to be censored by patients. Previous work on this has tended to ask hypothetical questions concerning data sharing rather than examine a real situation. A larger study of representative samples of patients in both primary and secondary care settings is needed to further investigate issues of data sharing and consent. © 2006 PHCSG, British Computer Society.