Majority of public have never accessed their own health records, but see the benefits

PwC Patients’ Voice survey reveals 92% of people see value in sharing medical records, but 80% have never accessed them and do not trust app companies with their data

  • PwC Patients’ Voice survey explores how health records are accessed
  • 80% of UK public have never accessed their health records, and 88% don’t know how
  • 92% of people happy for health records to be shared between different parts of the healthcare system
  • Concerns remain about security of patient data and giving access to records to health tech companies

The vast majority of people in the UK - 92% - recognise the value in having their health records shared across the system.

And this is despite 80% saying they have never accessed their own records, according to PwC’s latest Patients’ Voicesurvey of the public’s views on who should have access to their records.

85% of respondents feel there should be a centralised data system where healthcare professionals in different places are able to see patients’ records in one location, recognising the potential benefit for research purposes.

However, there is a lack of awareness around access to patient records; with an overwhelming 88% of patients who have never accessed their health records saying they don’t know how to do so, suggesting an opportunity for the NHS to improve information to patients to help close this awareness gap.

With access to patient data, tech companies have the potential to do a great deal to help improve healthcare - potentially alleviating pressure on the system, providing faster diagnosis for patients, and aiding developments in medical research

The research also shows the need to build trust in the security of patient data since a significant minority of patients are worried about their confidential records being wrongly accessed.

Just under half of UK adults (49%) think their information is safe when stored in an online system, with 17% saying it is unsafe.

Only 30% say they would consider joining a new online service that allows them to share their health records with different healthcare organisations, demonstrating there are many hurdles to jump to create a successful data sharing system.

The vast majority of patients are unsure about the security measures of new health tech companies and health apps to protect their data.

The majority believe that health apps (80%) and healthcare technology (84%) should not be allowed access to patients’ records, with nearly half of patients saying they do not trust online health companies (41%) and healthcare apps (44%) with their healthcare data.

While increasing numbers of people are embracing digital apps and smart devices to monitor their health and wellbeing, many UK adults are still wary of the tech companies behind these products.

As PwC noted earlier this year in its What Doctor? Why AI and Robotics will define New Health report; the UK is the most-sceptical country across Europe, the Middle East and Africa when it comes to using new technology such as Artificial Intelligence in healthcare.

Today’s research reinforces this finding - nearly half of patients in the UK do not trust the security of new health technologies and apps data; and the vast majority do not believe these technologies should have access to their data (80+%).

Health services are increasingly under financial pressure and there are limited resources to meet the constantly-growing demand, meaning access pressure is starting to build in the UK. The expectations of citizens for 24/7 services is likely to drive demand for these technologies and tempt people to try them

And, with the GDPR being introduced in May 2018, and many new healthcare technologies and apps entering the market; technology providers will need to prove they can not only help alleviate the key pressures in the healthcare system, but also that they can be trusted with patient records in order to really gain uptake.

The success of new technology in healthcare will require providers to demonstrate that their product does not present a risk, but actually provides a better outcome, in order to win patient confidence.

Patients want to open the black box of healthcare data and find out exactly where their medical records are going and who sees them

Quentin Cole, PwC health industries leader, said: “Patients want to open the black box of healthcare data and find out exactly where their medical records are going and who sees them.

“Lack of awareness of how to access records and also how their data is managed, followed by the NHS cyber attack earlier this year, has meant there is a scepticism and mistrust in how their patient records are managed. The NHS needs to address this by educating patients and therefore building their trust. Through this, the window of opportunity for new tech companies will widen.

“With access to patient data, tech companies have the potential to do a great deal to help improve healthcare - potentially alleviating pressure on the system, providing faster diagnosis for patients, and aiding developments in medical research.

“But there’s a need to build trust. Being transparent and demonstrating how accessing patient data would not present a risk, but instead be of benefit to both patients and the overall healthcare system, is key to their success.”