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Health secretary highlights need for e-health records

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Mr Hunt has promised a paperless NHS Mr Hunt has promised a paperless NHS by 2018

Patients are frustrated by having to explain conditions to multiple healthcare professionals and online health records could rectify this, said health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Speaking at the UK e-Health Week conference in London on 4 March, Mr Hunt spoke about the growing need for the NHS to invest in improving technology.

'At the moment patients using the system will say one of their biggest frustrations is having to repeat details of their health problems to GPs or community nurses or in hospital or to mental health services. Proper use of electronic health records can change that and we have big and exciting plans for this.

'This is about having an electronic system that can follow you anywhere you need to go in the health system,' he said.

He said that the introduction of online health records within the next month will help to deliver personalised healthcare for each patient.

At the end of last year a third of A&E and acute care settings were connected to GP practices through online records and this month will see the introduction of booking appointments online and ordering repeat prescriptions online.

The NHS had set the target of becoming paperless by 2018, he said.

He said that there were two big challenges to the NHS in the coming years: the progression of technology and the ageing population.

'We've got a scientific revolution on one hand and an ageing population on the other and the central question is how those two things interact,' he said. 'On one hand we could argue that technology could make things worse, but on the other hand it could be a massive force for good.'

When asked what would happen in the future, Mr Hunt said he couldn't speculate about how technology in the NHS would evolve. However, he cited the example of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, West Yorkshire, which is already using telehealth systems to improve patient care and reduce admissions.

He said: 'Telehealth is underestimated as care for the elderly. This is something that can be incredibly powerful in terms of keeping healthy and can be used without the need for expensive 24/7 nursing care.'

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