The UK's National Health Service's (NHS) admitted this week in a letter to London-area acute hospital trust executives that not all their hospitals will be getting a national, integrated electronic health record (EHR) system (called the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) aka Connecting for Health) as promised, the Financial Times of London says in a story today.
Quoting from a letter from Ruth Carnall, the NHS chief executive of the London strategic health authority to London hospital trust executives, she writes that the NHS will "it will no longer be possible to provide the comprehensive [EHR] solution that was anticipated in 2003." Instead, only about half of the 32 London acute hospital trusts will be receiving a fully integrated EHR system.
What about the London hospitals left out? The FT says,
"In place of a dedicated means of sharing records across hospitals, and between hospitals and primary care - a key goal of the programme - London will have to rely on the national summary care record, Ms Carnall says. However, this contains little other than allergies and current medication, and does not yet carry referral or discharge information."
In addition, London's ambulance service and GP offices won't be getting full EHR systems either, says the FT.
I suspect that few if any hospitals (or GPs) outside of London will be receiving EHR systems either, given that there has been major problems in making that work as well.
The NHS decision to drastically reduce its EHR commitment in London and go with the controversial summary care record (SCR) approach instead goes a long way towards explaining why the government has been pushing so hard to get millions of patient records uploaded into the SCR database before a report that it had commissioned discussing possible security, privacy and other issues was released.
So after 7 plus years of effort, billions of pounds spent, and loads of government hype, what most NHS patients and doctors likely will end up getting is a glorified personal health record that may or may be secure and private, and which may or may not improve their health care.
I wonder if the NPfIT business case will now be updated to reflect this new reality.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.