A hospital in Ireland plans to give patients access to their medical records by this time next year.

The private Galway Clinic is working with its electronic patient record provider, Meditech, to allow patients to see the data held on its Meditech 6.1 system, which is due to go live in November 2016.

Raphael Jaffrezic, chief information officer at Galway Clinic, said that giving patients access to this information, which is usually only accessible by clinicians, will help to “empower patients” to take control of their own care.

“We really want to give patients access to their record to engage them with their treatment,” Jaffrezic told Digital Health News.

“Something we’ve seen in research everywhere around the world is that patients need to take a much more active role in their care.”

Jaffrezic said the project was part of its “vision” for the future of healthcare informatics at the hospital, which already has a high level of digital maturity, having developed its Meditech 5.66 system since it went live in 2004. 

“We really want to use health informatics as a driver to be able to improve patient care and to improve the processes of our clinicians.”

He said the patient portal will likely go live as part of a ‘big bang’ approach to implementation of the new version of Meditech next year.

Access will be limited to specific groups of patients at the start before a “step-by-step” roll-out to other patients in the hospital.

The design and functionality of the patient portal is still being developed, but Jaffrezic said it is likely they will be able to access it from any platform, including mobile devices.

As for what data patients will have access to, Jaffrezic said discussions are ongoing, but the hospital is tending towards the view that it needs to give patients access to the complete medical record.

“That’s what we are trying to plan for because at the end of the day we know the medical record does belong to the patient. It’s held in healthcare organisations, but it does belong to the patient.”

He added that some clinicians had suggested patients might not be able to interpret some of the data, but tthey need to take a “simplistic view” that if a patient has requested the data there is no reason not to give it to them.

The portal will also improve communications between the hospital and the patient, said Jaffrezic, noting that they use the tool to complete questionnaires and to access care notes after treatment.

Another big area of potential for the tool is the ability to improve data sharing between different healthcare providers by giving patients control of their data and allowing them to transfer it to other organisations as they see fit.

“I hope it will help all providers to access data when they need it, but for it to be controlled by patients themselves,” said Jaffrezic.

As part of the project the hospital is working with BridgeHead Software to use its RAPid Data Protection tool to make sure that patient data is protected and recoverable in case of any system outages or data corruption.

BridgeHead designed RAPid Data Protection in conjunction with Meditech and the tool has specific data backup and recovery capabilities for Meditech’s EPR.

Jaffrezic said the decision to go with Bridgehead was a “no-brainer” as the hospital has worked with the company for more than decade to keep patient data secure in the current Meditech system.

The Galway Clinic was opened in June 2004. It is independently funded, but one of its aims was to improve local cancer services.

It now runs 153 beds and eight operating theatres that are used by 130 consultants to provide a range of healthcare services, includng heart surgery, robotic surgery, scanning, and recovery services.