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News

Government pressure on confidentiality of medical records

PGP (GB) : 04 March, 2009  (Technical Article)
Controversy flares between UK healthcare providers and government concerning the security and confidentiality on on-line based patient medical records
Jack Straw has been put under pressure today from leading UK healthcare organisations which are urging that personal medical records must be made exempt from legislation which would see an increase in the Government's power to access and share confidential information.

The letter, signed by eight health organisations, including the BMA and the Royal College of Surgeons, highlights "grave concerns" over Clause 152 of The Coroners and Justice Bill. Currently making its way through Parliament, this Bill has aroused controversy over its widening of Government powers to access confidential patient records and share them with third parties.

Jamie Cowper, Director of Marketing EMEA at PGP Corporation, has said the following on the news:

"Just this week we've seen media reports of a doctor being charged with illegally accessing medical records of Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond. With headline grabbing stories such as this one, it's little wonder that senior health officials are gravely concerned about how to balance the seemingly conflicting demands of sharing online medical records and guaranteeing patient confidentiality.

"However, whilst there is a perception that greater access to electronic medical records will open the floodgates to serious breaches of confidentiality, questions must also be raised over the processes being employed at present. For instance, who is holding the key to our paper-based records and who's there to stop the contents being read by an unauthorised person?

"If the Government is serious about these online data sharing proposals, it must first acknowledge that simply putting this data under lock and key - or password protecting it - are no longer appropriate measures of security. Technology exists today which can automatically encrypt all data, ensuring that only authorised medical staff can view confidential records but still enabling IT administrators and medical support staff to forward records to authorised personnel, without being able to actually view the content.

"To properly safeguard medical data and retain the confidence of the public, this could be the Government's only solution."
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