Personal Health Records: How important is safety (of the patient vs the data)?

On Monday the Royal College of Physicians published a very important report: ‘Personal Health Records-  User Insights’  (https://www.rcplondon.ac.uk/projects/outputs/personal-health-record-phr-user-insights).

The RCP did go to great length to ‘understand the need of service users’ by interviewing patients, carers and health care professionals. The document is comprehensive, a compelling read and a resource to appreciate the challenges ahead.

So what is the news on personal health records for safety in hospital?  The experience of patients who were admitted to hospital is captured in an example of how patients could look up their results from a lab test such as the prostate specific antigen after an admission for surgery. Safety is mentioned a few times: in the context of social care records, as a data protection risk  and in the literature review. Patients were sceptical that healthcare professionals would actually believe patient held records. Overall safety from harm through medical error does not seemed to have featured that high as a priority of patients and carers.

Why would that be the case? To a degree if reflects the literature that is comparatively scarce on safety benefits beyond medication reconciliation. The benefits that healthcare teams might derive from using patient held records are at current usually limited to accessing documentation from other providers. Patients thus share medical interpretations of their condition rather then ‘real time’ self-assessments of their wellbeing.

What changes in the patient – healthcare professional relationship are needed to make a documentation by the patient a ‘credible’ part of safety critical information ?

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