Medical professionals to share patient records

The private health records of tens of thousands of Wellingtonians are being shared digitally for the first time, in a move the DHB says will save lives.

However, the move could also heighten privacy risks as patient’s medical details as available at the click of button for dozens of doctors and nurses.

For the first time most of the records kept by GPs, including everything from your medication to that nasty cough last winter, will be automatically shared with other medical professionals.

This could include Emergency Department doctors, specialists, or after hours GPs.

The details of about 80 per cent of all patients from the Kapiti Coast to Wellington have already been uploaded and Wellington Hospital’s emergency department has already accessed GPs records 1100 times int he past two weeks.

The Capital and Coast District Health Board launched the new sharing system this morning with Health Minister Tony Ryall.

Mr Ryall said most people were surprised to learn that GPs weren’t already sharing their information with other doctors involved in their care.

He said it would not possible for private information to leaked in big chunks because only one person’s records could be accessed at a time.

Peter Hicks, the DHB’s clinical support services director, said before having access to a GPs records, emergency department staff often had no idea of the medication or allergies of patient in need of urgent care..

If the department couldn’t track down the patient’s GP, they could be forced to repeated tests, creating delays when treatment could be the difference between life and death.

“This is a life-saver”

Although there was an inherent increase in the risk to privacy by sharing more information, it could be managed and was balanced against big benefits for patients, he said.

The greater shared service in Wellington is part of a national push by the Government to share more patient information digitally.

It is being developed alongside patient portals, which allow patients to access their own medical records and communicate with their GPs online.