These principles have been drawn up with input from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and the British Medical Association, to ensure medical information is shared more securely and at a higher standard than the current paper-based system.
In addition, the new guidelines intend to speed up the application process for insurance cover, reduce the time GPs spend on dealing with requests for medical information, and give certainty to individuals that the right information has been given to the insurer.
“Obtaining medical information electronically has clear potential benefits for customers, insurers and GPs,” ABI assistant director, head of health and protection, Raluca Boroianu-Omura, said.
“Insurers often need medical information to process an application for protection insurance cover, such as life insurance, and the current system can take time and add to many GPs’ workloads. Using electronic requests could help save GPs time.
“Obtaining this information electronically could also speed up applications for insurance cover, ensuring customers receive their cover faster than before, as well as making life easier for doctors.
“These guiding principles are an important foundation to ensure that everyone has confidence that safeguards are in place to robustly and consistently protect an individual’s personal medical information.”
The guidelines ensure that:
• Medical information is only released with the customer’s consent
• GPs can amend, delete or add sensitive information before sending it to an insurer – improving efficiency
• Information is at least as secure as it is using the current system
• Requests for medical information are made in accordance with a patient’s rights under relevant legislation such as the Access to Medical Reports Act 1998.
Research has shown that of customers who have a preference, 90% would choose the electronic method of sharing information rather than the paper one.
ICO group manager for business and industry, Garreth Cameron, said: “Medical records contain some of our most sensitive personal information and it's vitally important patients can continue to discuss health concerns with their GP in confidence.
“Insurers should continue to work with GPs to ensure patients can be confident their information is only going to be disclosed with their explicit consent, in appropriate circumstances, and only when robust safeguards are in place to protect the information."