The government has called for an "information revolution" in the NHS in a bid to improve services by gathering more data from patients and providing more information on health treatments.
Health secretary Andrew Lansley said in a paper entitled Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (PDF) that the government wants to "correct the imbalance in who knows what" in the NHS, and give people access to more information on health issues.
"The information revolution is also about new ways of delivering care, such as enabling patients to communicate with their clinicians online about their health status," he said.
"We will provide a range of online services, which will mean services being provided much more efficiently at a time and place that is convenient for patients and carers."
Patients will be involved in generating the information in the form of Patient-Reported Outcome Measures (PROMs) and real-time feedback, which the government will then disseminate more widely in order to improve their value.
"The Department of Health will extend national clinical audits to support clinicians across a much wider range of treatments and conditions, and will extend PROMs across the NHS wherever practicable," said Lansley.
The government also wants to provide patients with their health information so that they can pass it on to third parties which may specialise in their treatment.
"We will make it simple for a patient to download their record and pass it, in a standard format, to any organisation of their choice," Lansley said.
No information was given on how these systems will be controlled or how much they will cost, but the Department of Health will publish an information strategy document in the autumn seeking views on how best to implement the changes.
The Conservative party has always been highly critical of the previous government's NHS Spine project, and had said that it favours decentralising IT management in the NHS.
NHS chief executive David Nicholson told SmartHealthcare.com that the government will announce changes to the National Programme for IT, under which the controversial Spine project ran, in the coming weeks.
"There will be an announcement in the next four weeks or so in regards to the programme. Apart from that, I can't say any more at the moment," said Nicholson.
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