Digital Health Records Have Arrived! Are You Signing Up for This?

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Digital Health Records Have Arrived! Are You Signing Up for This?

Digitising NHS Patient Records has been on the government’s agenda for a number of years. June 23rd 2021, is the deadline to opt out of having your health details included in NHS Digital’s Database. After this date, they will be able to scrape data held by your GP. The danger here is the possibility of having your most intimate medical information exposed to third parties. Is this what you want to sign up to?

The first iteration of this development was launched in 2013 under Care Data Programme. However, it was short lived because of public scrutiny and backlash. Patients in England were offered very little consultation or engagement around this policy initiative. The sparse information that was available focused on the benefits. However, it excluded the crucial option that would allow for patients to opt out. Less than eighteen months later, the Programme was scrapped because of privacy concerns, inconsistencies and project definitions.

Even though we are two weeks away from current policy moving into practice, concerns still exist. Two primary reasons are due to the unclear commercial relationships NHS Digital have with corporations. The latter have increasing power which is comparable to or exceeds that of the government. With public discontent around privacy and use of information, who will effectively counter or challenge questionable practices? Secondly, even though NHS Digital state medical records will by anonymised, they still have the power to unlock codes. One outcome is their ability to reveal your identity to third parties, if there’s a ‘valid legal reason.’

The digital transformation of patient data is being justified as a way to improve patient services. There’s certainly validity in this because it spans; planning better healthcare services through to researching and developing cures for chronic illnesses. These operational processes fall under the ambit of Business AI, which is a pillar within the AI Revolution. The technology will be used to streamline and codify the vast amounts of health data held by the NHS. It can penetrate and exploit existing information to acquire better results for patients. In particular, it has the ability to find hidden connections that are missed by the human eye and brain.

It’s clear that the expansive reach, depth and speed of AI, enhances the ability to accurately diagnosis conditions. Business operations will certainly be improved and can be a good source of supplementary support for medical personnel. However, how do we navigate these benefits with our need for privacy?


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