Healthcare suffers due to delays in technology roll-out

HEALTHCARE in Scotland is being compromised by slow progress in introducing new computing systems to the NHS.

MSPs have warned that the development of "clinical portals" to allow access to patient records across the NHS in Scotland, is "slow and inconsistent" across the country.

The Scottish Parliament's health committee also said that "telehealth" projects, which allow care without the need for patients to travel long distances, had also been slow to get off the ground and targets should be set so all patients can benefit from them.

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The report said there were major issues, such as making sure patient confidentiality was safeguarded, to be addressed if Scotland was to become a world leader in electronic health.

The committee echoed the concerns of doctors in making sure measures were put in place to ensure confidentiality was not compromised.

Health professionals and the Scottish Government, giving evidence to the committee, pointed to greater levels of security and traceability of access to electronic portal systems compared to traditional paper records. But they also acknowledged "a culture amongst some NHS staff of sharing IT usernames and passwords".

The committee called for a code of conduct to be put in place to make sure records were not accessed inappropriately.

The MSPs also raised concerns about resistance to increased use of telehealth projects, such as using videoconferencing for appointments in remote areas.

They added that there was also a lack of a national assessment of such projects to allow them to be rolled out across the country.

Committee convener Christine Grahame said technology had the potential to improve the quality of care for Scottish patients.

"However, our committee report reveals that the government has some work to do in encouraging health boards to use and evaluate this technology."