South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is today launching personal online health records for its patients, using Microsoft’s HealthVault platform.

Director of information strategy, Mike Denis, presented on the MyHealthBox project at the Health+In4matics conference in Birmingham last week.

He told attendees the project was a partnership between the trust, the Institute of Psychiatry and service users. It aims to improve patients’ engagement in their care and the use of outcome measurements across the trust.

Although the formal launch is today, the records have already gone live with five clinical teams – three psychosis and two child and adolescent – and two GP practices.

Clinicians offer access to patients who, if they agree, are given a password to log-in and create an account.

The information that feeds into the record is decided by clinicians and patients. Clinicians will not be able to see the record unless the patient chooses to show it to them.

“We have made it clear that [clinicians in the teams going live] must be committed to adapting service models and personal behaviours to facilitate those new relationships,” Denis explained.

“This is not just giving view access – that’s not empowering enough – we want to take this to the next level. We’re hoping that patients will be able to become co-producers/designers of their care.”

South London and Maudsley is the largest mental health service in Europe, with 35,000 active patients. The teams involved in the records project so far cover about 1,000 patients, but the project is still in very early days and only a few have signed up.

Despite this – and the poor uptake of the national HealthSpace organiser, that was supposed to give all patients access to their Summary Care Record – Denis said the system was service user-led and that patient engagement had showed this was something they wanted.

HealthVault is a platform for holding health information, allowing users to decide who to share it with, and developing apps and services.

South London and Maudsley’s personal health record can draw information from the trust’s own Electronic Patient Journey System, which was developed with Strand Technology, which became an approved Health Vault partner for the project.

It can also draw information from EMIS GP systems. Denis said this would facilitate better care planning between primary and secondary care.

The core of MyHealthBox is an application that patients can use to access information about their condition and service pathways available to them. The trust is also working with Get Real Consulting to build apps around this, such as mood diaries.

The trust is using charity funding to provide technology support and training to patients who want it.

“The process of development will continue through the course of the pilot and we’ll be conducting an independent evaluation probably through the King’s Fund and the Institute of Psychiatry,” Denis added.

“The model is very much intended to be not just sustainable but scalable. We’re looking to introduce other partners into the model over the next six months, for example King’s College Hospital and Guy’s and St Thomas’.”

Denis told eHealth Insider that access to personal health records was open to all patients, unless there were issues around mental capacity.

“We chose children because they have absolutely grown up with technology. We wanted to broaden the experience, so we chose them deliberately.”

He argued that if this kind of development could be done in a mental health service, it could be done in any kind of health service.

Read more about the launch – and how it dovetails with the NHS information strategy – in the Insight feature, ‘Living in a box’.