By Michael Moore
NHS chiefs have backed new plans which would see patients able to gain access to their medical records using their smartphone or laptop.
The NHS aims to be able to provide access to GP records through dedicated apps and specially designed digital platforms by early 2015, with access to all health records—held by hospitals, community, mental health and social care services—by 2018.
This means that patients will easily be able to view details of every visit to the GP and hospital, as well as every prescription, test results, and adverse reactions and allergies to drugs. Patients will also be able to record their preferences and thoughts alongside official medical notes.
Only around 4 percent of records are currently accessible online for patients, but health chiefs are positive that a full service is possible by next year.
"I want the NHS to be a world class showcase of what innovation can achieve," said secretary of state Jeremy Hunt. "Today's plan sets out how we can give patients 21st century, personalized healthcare."
The plans also include proposals for NHS "Kitemarks" to signal which smartphone apps can be trusted to help patients access services and take more control of their health and wellbeing, which could possibly extend to services such as Apple Health or Google Fit in the future.
Also proposed is a digital "red book" to help parents manage their child's early health records, which can be accessed quickly and easily to ensure their child is getting the treatment it needs.
"We must embrace modern technology to help us lead healthier lives, and if we want—to take more control when are ill," said Tim Kelsey, National Informatics Director and the chairman of the board recommending the proposals.
"Our ambition is to make the NHS a digital pioneer for our patients and citizens."
The NHS' move towards a fully digital future is a positive one, but the body may find itself hamstrung by existing IT issues. Chief amongst these is the fact that the results of an FOI (Freedom Of Information) request by Citrix found that many NHS trusts are waiting until the last minute to make the switch from Windows XP, with 74 percent planning to switch in March 2015, the last month before support ends.
Of the 35 trusts sent the request, 100 percent were found to still be using Windows XP in some form.