E-health Insider reports that patients in London can now have their medical histories handy wherever they are, by uploading them onto a new USB plug-in smartcard called the Health eCard.
The card works in any computer that has a USB port and is also compatible with all current GP systems. Buying the card should enable patients to show their records to any medical professional, saving time and improving consultations when their notes are not available.
General practices are given two small boxes, one that holds the surgery card, capable of holding up to 50,000 records on it, and another to store cards to sell to the patient, which links to the patient's records through their unique ID number. The master records card also acts as a firewall ensuring no viruses can affect the GP system and prevents patients from changing their own records.
Both patient and doctor view the data via a special secure reader/writer which encrypts the data and ensures it does not stay on a computer's memory. The card is protected using a pass phrase which only the patient should know - only when this phrase is entered can a record be viewed. If an incorrect phrase is entered too many times, the card will stop working and a new one will have to be purchased.
GPs are entitled to charge a £10 download fee to cardholders under the Data Protection Act, agreed by the General Medical Council as a non-NHS fee.
Jul Kornbluth, managing director of HealtheSystems, which developed the card, describes why he felt there was a need for this system: "We really felt something should be done. Although personal health records is a big initiative at present, it seemed to us that other projects [to deliver them] had gone to sleep and were complicated. The Health eCard empowers patients and enables them to get involved in their own healthcare."
HealtheSystems hopes to roll out the system nationally in March and are writing to surgeries in the UK to inform them about it.