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Patient records finally go online

Roll-out of new system could take five years

PATIENT records have finally gone online. This is the first time that a permanent record of any kind is able to follow the patient through their life: at present, each doctor keeps his own and there is no automatic transfer of information if, for example, a person changes GP.

The new online records, the dossier médical personnalisé (DMP), comprise documents such as prescriptions and test results, enabling GPs, specialists, dentists or pharmacists to share them easily.

Setting up a dossier will be done by the patient, with the carte vitale, and the doctor, who will use his own identification card. It will then be consultable by the patient at home or any health professionals he or she authorises.

Under previous plans, patients would have had medical reimbursements lowered if they refused to use the system, but it will now be voluntary. Doctors will also be free to either make use of it or not.

Though the first schemes are already being set up, it will be several months before systems are in place for any patients to consult their own dossier.

Data is being be stored by a consortium consisting principally of La Poste and the large French IT services firm Atos Origin, which also provides IT services for some UK public bodies and will be in charge of IT for the London Olympics in 2012 (it was involved in controversy in 2008, when a memory stick with user names and passwords for a new e-government site was “misplaced” in a pub car park, although the Department of Work and Pensions insisted it was encrypted and related to a test version of the site).

A spokesman for the leading GPs’ union MG France, Gilles Urbejtel, said the roll-out would be very gradual, over four or five years.

“Doctors will have to adapt their IT systems to be compatible with it, so I think only 10 per cent of GPs will be equipped this year.”

He added that the new dossiers will not replace personal doctors’ notes.

“It will be like a big library for the exchange of documents. In the longer term, it might include a summary from the GP, but at the moment there are no plans for how the doctor would be paid for that, so it probably won’t be done spontaneously.”

Dr Urbejtel added: “This is an advance, but it is not the be-all-and-end-all of exchanges between doctors. We must perfect the software doctors use first, so data can be consulted more easily, and we have to make sure all doctors can receive test results over the internet.

“At the moment, 90 per cent are sent on paper, which is totally out of date. What is more, only two or three per cent of hospital reports are computerised. So there is an overall revolution that needs to take place, of which the DMP is an important element.”

Dr Urbejtel said he though it was preferable for a private company to host the data.

“I can’t imagine the government taking responsibility for that. It should be done privately, but with powerful checks at several levels.”

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