IT healthcare security

The Department of Health and the Chartered Institute for IT (BCS) have collaborated to publish advice on sharing and keeping electronic health records secure.

The guidance comes ahead of all GPs having to ensure that health records are made available online by 2015, following a mandate at the end of last year that was delivered to the NHS Commissioning Board.

The NHS Commissioning Board was established in October last year as an executive non-departmental public body and will inherit full NHS planning and delivery responsibilities from the Department of Health, strategic health authorities and primary care trusts on April 1.

The government mandates says: “In a digital age, it is crucial that the NHS not only operates at the limits of medical science, but also increasingly at the forefront of new technologies.

“The Board’s objective is to achieve a significant increase in the use of technology to help people manage their health and care.”

Available as an online leaflet, the guidance includes advice on creating strong passwords, making sure you are careful when using a shared PC or mobile device, and thinking carefully about whom you share your health records with.

The project is likely to be seen as an attempt by government to pre-empt concerns around the safety of individuals’ sensitive information being stored online.

“We’ve created this guide because patients and users are increasingly accessing their health and care records or holding their own. By March 2015 the government has mandated that the NHS provides patients online access to their GP medical records,” said Dr Wai Keong Wong, who has led the development of the guidelines on behalf of BCS Health.

“These records contain potentially sensitive personal information, so it’s important that individuals know how to keep them safe. Everyone should take the same care with their health and social care records as they do if they use online banking. This guidance explains how to access records safely, keep them secure, and key factors to consider before choosing to share them with others.”