Single Patient Record

The Single Patient Record is a system that holds the entirety of the medical data for an individual, and has long been the ambition of international medical organisations. As recently as 2011, the British government had to abandon an £11bn project intended to deliver a single patient record solution. The nine year project was the biggest civilian IT scheme ever attempted at that time and, even with such an allocation of time and funding, the project failed to deliver.

In the intervening 15 years technology has evolved at an accelerated rate, with the cloud becoming the de facto platform for data storage and processing, and the proliferation of mobile user interfaces. Users no longer simply access their data from a desktop and are, in fact, now more likely to use their phones, tablets, laptops - and even games consoles - than anything else.

Until recently security would have been seen as a barrier to this type of change, but individuals now routinely manage their finances from a range of devices, accessing some of their most personal data in a manner that safely maximises convenience.

One of the emerging factors that has made the single patient record possible is Blockchain technology which, until now, has been most visible to people as the technology associated with crypto-currencies.

Blockchain is, essentially, a very specialised database and the same unique and specific characteristics that allow it to underpin crypto-currencies also make it the ideal underlying technology for the single patient record.

The principle elements to consider here are:

  • Security – Blockchain was designed to work in a trust-free environment. The encryption of the data was therefore an underlying component of the architecture, as was the distributed nature of its ecosystem, which provides an innate defence against attack.
  • Immutable Audit Trail – Each 'block' is added sequentially to a blockchain and cannot be amended subsequently. This makes for an ideal technology when it comes to patient records, and particularly for the subsequent use in clinical data-mining when an accurate record of patient treatment is invaluable.
  • Content Delivery - Blockchain is by its nature distributed, so it acts as its own content delivery network (CDN) meaning that wherever the data is accessed from, it will be identical. This is ideal for a patient record where data integrity is key. The data can be accessed from any device that is connected to the Internet, as long as the user has the correct credentials.

The single patient record product that is being developed by SPR Global Technologies takes advantage of the characteristics of Blockchain technology. As with a mobile banking application, a user can access their data from a variety of devices but no data is ever held on the device itself.

All of the above means that a single patient record system can be developed for a fraction of the £11bn that was budgeted 15 years ago. The combination of the World Wide Web, the phone app ecosystem, cloud-based processing and storage and the emergence of Blockchain technology means that single patient record is finally achievable.