English Physicians Plan To Boycott Patient Health Record Database

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Nearly two-thirds of family physicians in England plan to boycott the government's attempt to create a database of 50 million National Health Service patients' electronic health records, according to a poll by Medix, a health online research organization, the Guardian Unlimited reports.

The poll of more than 1,000 physicians found that:

  • 75% of respondents believe medical records would be less secure if they are added to a database that could be accessed by NHS and social services staff throughout England;
  • 50% believe the records would be vulnerable to hackers and unauthorized users by officials outside of the NHS;
  • 25% said they are concerned about bribery or blackmail by people with access to the database; and
  • 21% said they thought social services staff would not adhere to confidentiality rules.

The survey also found that 59% of respondents said they are unwilling to upload EHRs without explicit patient consent (Carvel, Guardian Unlimited, 11/20).

NHS' "policy is that patients should be deemed to have given implied consent to sharing their health care information between relevant clinicians unless they specifically opt-out," according to a letter last year by the British Medical Association. BMA opposes the patient consent policy and its letter urged physicians to inform patients of the electronic data sharing "so they can make an informed choice of how they want their information to be shared" (iHealthBeat, 11/17/06).

The database is part of a £12.4 billion, or $25.6 billion, project to modernize the NHS' IT systems. The survey found that 70% of general practitioners and hospital doctors believe the program is not a good use for NHS resources, and only 1% of respondents said the program's progress is good or excellent (Guardian Unlimited, 11/20).


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