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  • John Crowley

Why granting NHS patients access to their medical records online is a legal right

Companies like Medicalchain and Patients Know Best are offering people smartphone access to their health data. Smartphones leave you a fingertip away from your bank balance. But having on-the-go access to your medical records is still a work in progress.

Public confidence in the safe storage of personal records has been undermined by stories about tranches of documents going missing, and the aborted £10 billion IT scheme to upgrade the entire NHS system. A squeamishness about viewing your own medical history also plays a part.

But with data now an all-consuming part of our lives, the potential cost savings of putting medical records in the hands of patients are manifold. Being able to call up a hospital blood-test result for your GP instead of having to take another is one example of how it could improve efficiency.

Mohammad Al-Ubaydli, CEO of Patients Know Best (PKB), the social enterprise that aims to give people instant access to their medical records, says there is a growing awareness of the legal right to see electronically held records – a consequence, of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.

“NHS trusts,” he says, “are telling us that they are getting increased requests from the public to access their patient data. One hospital told me that it is getting 400 a month.”

PKB covers 30 hospital trusts across the UK. Clinicians using the platform get a single view of a patient’s history, reducing duplication. Patients, in turn, feel involved in care decisions through access to an encrypted portal.

The start-up Medicalchain, co-founded in 2016 by Dr Abdullah Albeyatti, a practising GP, and Mohammed Tayeb, has embraced the possibilities afforded by cryptographic technology with its app

The app utilises blockchain technology – a list of records, linked by cryptography – for the secure storage and transfer of health records.

“The man in the street doesn’t care about blockchain,” says Dr Albeyatti, “but it is the most secure way to carry around this technology. Essentially, it is a distributed ledger that can’t be corrupted or changed without disrupting the chain in that process. So if somebody tried to change a clinic letter, that corruption at that specific place would be flagged.”

With ambitious plans to roll out its service across the UK and beyond, Medicalchain has entered into a pilot partnership with The Groves Medical Group in London.

Dr Albeyatti envisages patients being able to grant and revoke access, and wear bracelets to allow paramedics to access medical records in the event of incapacitation.

“We give pregnant women their maternity records. We also have children’s red [personal health record] books. It’s madness the way we entrust information to physical documentation that can easily be lost.”

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