The University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust is preparing to provide patients with access to their medical information via a new personal health record.

The portal, which will be developed in-house and piloted towards the end of the year, will allow patients to access their appointments and details of medications and results. It will also enable them to interact with other patients via sites such as Facebook.

Daniel Ray, director of informatics and patient administration, told E-Health Insider: “The initiative came about after we followed a patient who had a liver transplant. She had a number of different addresses but every time information was sent to her it was only sent to one address.

“In an ideal world, she would be able to log onto the internet to access the information she needs and also put any queries she has to the consultant remotely.”

The portal, which will initially be piloted with 12 liver transplant patients, is expected to cost around £150,000. It could eventually serve 5,000-8,000 patients across different specialities.

Ray added: “We’re being very careful about which patients we open it up to. We will carry out the pilot and then start providing access to people with longer term conditions such as diabetes. But we really are going to have to reach banking levels of security before any of that.

“At the moment, we’re getting the core underlying infrastructure sorted and getting in third parties such as HBOS to focus on security. We also have to get lawyers involved so that patients are fully informed.”

The trust has already secured the funding required from its charities, after highlighting the benefits to patients. The funding will cover the cost of a developer for 6-12 months, security consultancy and certificate, and hardware.

A paper will be submitted to the chief executive and the board to outline any risks associated with the project.

“These are mainly around logging-in risks," said Ray. "If it is too complex to log-in, people will not want to use it. But if it is too easy, then it could get hacked. So it’s particularly important to get that balance.

“There also needs to be some more work around what happens if results are abnormal, do we hide those results from a patient temporarily and how we can ensure that the patient gets sufficient support."

Opinion and analysis: E-Health Insider reporter Sarah Bruce recently visited Birmingham to see how the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital will be using IT. Read her feature, Moving on up.