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Data Privacy Missteps Could Threaten Patient Trust in the UK

Overall, patients trust physicians with digital data

According to a May 2013 study from Infosys, 90% of UK internet users were reasonably happy to have their physicians digitally access personal health information about them.

However, earlier this month, a National Health Service (NHS) trust—NHS Surrey—was fined £200,000 ($317,460) by the health industry watchdog, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), after the personal records of more than 3,000 of its patients were discovered on a refurbished computer sold on the auction site eBay in 2012.

Data breaches like this aren’t anything new. According to a Freedom of Information Act request by Pulse Today, between 2012 and 2013 there was a 20% increase in data breaches among hospital trusts. While this figure accounted for all kinds of breaches, and not just digital ones, it’s compelling enough to put the future of the “paperless NHS” into serious doubt.

The UK’s healthcare system is currently in the throes of major reform, with general practitioners placed more centrally in the process. While this may give these doctors some headaches with regards to financial burdens and the like, it may help prop up levels of patient trust in electronic record keeping. Worldwide sentiment, from a February 2013 Cisco Systems study, indicated that consumers were far more likely to put their trust more generally in their personal doctor than a government organization.

And it seems that general practitioners in the UK are very comfortable with using electronic medical records. According to a July 2012 study from US-based healthcare foundation The Commonwealth Fund, 97% of primary care physicians in the country already used such records in their practice.


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