Appointments and test results in new NHS online

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PATIENTS are to be offered the chance to access vital information about their health online for the first time.

Test results, appointment dates and clinical documents will be made available to a small sample of patients as part of a new trial of a system which could be extended to thousands if it proves a success.

NHS Lothian said the information was already shared electronically by doctors and between health boards and that the new tool would allow patients to take more responsibility for their own treatment.

Around 60 patients will take part in the trial, the first of its type in Scotland.

A time delay will be put in place so that doctors are aware of test results before they are put online, meaning they can contact patients in person if necessary.

It is hoped that the new tool will save time for doctors, as they will spend less time on administrative tasks, and patients, who will no longer have to ring up for test results.

American communication firm Harris Healthcare will access internal NHS records before making them available through its patient portal.

Martin Egan, NHS Lothian’s director for eHealth, said internal testing of the system had already been carried out and that the move represented a “significant stepping stone” in the health board’s strategy of giving patients access to their own information.

He said: “It ensures that patients are better informed about their health meanwhile providing them with opportunity to monitor and take greater responsibility for their own healthcare.

“For too long, patients have relied on healthcare professionals to find out and monitor basic information about their health. The portal helps to encourage a step change in putting the patient at the centre of the NHS.”

However, experts at the British Medical Association (BMA) Scotland have warned care must be taken to ensure that private information, which will be accessed with a username and password, is hacker proof. A spokeswoman said: “We would want to ensure that effective safeguards are in place to guarantee that the system remains secure and confidential.”

She added it is “vitally important” patients are given adequate information and support “to make sure the full implications and effects of their results are understood”.

Hi-TECH AT HEART OF CARE

TECHNOLOGY is set to play an increasing role in the health service in coming years.

Paperless hospitals, which see doctors and nurses use iPads to record and access information, have already been introduced in some areas and are likely to become more common.

NHS Lothian chief executive Tim Davison has indicated that in future, consultations with doctors could be carried out over the phone to ease pressure on the Royal Infirmary.

Other developments in the pipeline include cameras that automatically monitor a patient’s vital signs.