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Medicine DRM The Almighty Buck United Kingdom IT Science

Man Charged £2,000 For Medical Records Stored On Obsolete System 368

An anonymous reader writes "In Britain, where it is custom and practice to charge around £10 for a copy of your medical results, a patient has discovered that his copy will cost him £2,000 because the records are stored on an obsolete system that the current IT systems cannot access. Can this be good for patient care if no-one can access records dating back from a previous filing system? Perhaps we need to require all current systems to store data in a way that is vendor independent, and DRM-free, too?"
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Man Charged £2,000 For Medical Records Stored On Obsolete System

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:46PM (#41912231)

    That's more than the statutory maximums in both the Access to Health Records Act 1990 and Data Protection Act 1998 (as amended), which is £50 (if the records are a combination of computer and paper) or £10 (computer only).

    This is not legal advice, but it is a recommendation that he should seek legal advice.

  • Won't happen... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:55PM (#41912345)

    They may have asked him for £2,000 but he won't have to pay it:

    From the UK Information Commissioner's Office:

    You have the right to get a copy of the information that is held about you. This is known as a subject access request...Organisations may charge a fee of up to £10 (£2 if it is a request to a credit reference agency for information about your financial standing only).There are special rules that apply to fees for paper based health records (the maximum fee is currently £50) and education records (a sliding scale from £1 to £50 depending on the number of pages provided).

  • by Sporkinum ( 655143 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @05:56PM (#41912347)

    What is the length of time requirement to keep records? In the US, for most medical studies, it's 7 years. He would be outside that here.

  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:18PM (#41912607) Homepage

    Not sure you can say the Canadian system has "failed". They have had their problems and when there isn't enough government money to go around, their system is terrible. But conversely, when the government is rolling in dough the system works fine.

    I suspect the US will have the same experience shortly. But post-Vietnam when has the government had enough money? For a little while during the dot-com boom, I suppose, but not really any other time. So I would expect that if you look at Canada in the 1980s when people were waiting months for any sort of health service and the answer to a lot of health care questions was that they used up the budget for that operation already - you have to wait until next year - this will reflect the US experience soon to come.

    Oh, and don't forget that the government tax load in Canada is more like 70% of your income. That is what it is going to take here as well, if not more. With the local taxes and state taxes added in you may find yourself getting 10% of your gross pay as take-home.

  • Re:What a fuckup (Score:5, Informative)

    by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @06:56PM (#41913031) Homepage Journal

    Healthcare is always strapped for cash...

    Huh, must be a British thing.

    That's what I was thinking. Around here, healthcare spends as much as possible to keep their "non-profit" status.

    Not to mention the insane price gouging [clarkhoward.com] that is standard in American healthcare.

    For those who don't know and are too lazy to RTFA, in American healthcare a hospital may charge uninsured patients upwards of 500x more than they would charge an insured patient for the exact same procedure.

  • by Formalin ( 1945560 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:16PM (#41913279)

    Oh, and don't forget that the government tax load in Canada is more like 70% of your income. That is what it is going to take here as well, if not more. With the local taxes and state taxes added in you may find yourself getting 10% of your gross pay as take-home.

    -5, completely fucking wrong.

  • Re:What a fuckup (Score:5, Informative)

    by ChumpusRex2003 ( 726306 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @07:49PM (#41913635)

    The old system may not have been phased out completely - only phased out for new data. In fact, this is typically what happened with the older systems. Data was stored on MO discs, and stored on yards and yards of shelves. Although the data on the discs is in an open and standard format, the discs are an obscure and obsolete format.

    When a new system was installed (which after about 2000 would have been networked with data stored on a large server, rather than individual discs/tapes) it would have been too labour intensive to convert the format - and indeed, the existing equipment may not have supported it, or if it did, it may have required expensive configuration on both the image acquisition device and on the server side (to set up a connection from e.g. a CT scanner to an image server is an expensive process - typically configuring the server's IP address in the "image destination" config on the scanner is a manufacturer service call out - $4k+; and there must be a matching entry on the server with the scanner's IP address - again, software vendor only setup + new image source IP address licence - $5k+).

    So, even though the old system has been decommissioned for new use; the discs may still be available, and the workstation still functional, so that the discs can be read and the study examined by a doctor that needs it. However, there may be no way to transfer the data to a new format. E.g. the workstations may not have been fitted with a CD Writer; just the MO drive.

    This means that there is no way for the hospital to get the data off an MO disc and onto a contemporary format (like CD or DVD). The only way to do it, would be to acquire an old external SCSI CD-writer compatible with the old workstation (which may be something obscure like a sparcstation or an SGI indigo II) from a specialist IT supplier - or acquire an MO drive which can be connected to a modern workstation with a CD-Writer, or network access (in fact, even that isn't the end of the story, the old equipment may have been unix/linux based, which means the MO discs might be formatted in ext2 - an MO drive on a Windows workstation won't help with that). It is entirely plausible that this is the first request they have had for the data to be migrated to a new format, and that the equipment and configuration needed would have been expensive.

  • Re:What a fuckup (Score:4, Informative)

    by Darinbob ( 1142669 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2012 @08:05PM (#41913781)

    It's an American thing too! People see a huge healthcare bill and assume that the healthcare industry is just rolling in cash, but it's not true. Hospitals in the US are always having to cut corners, technology is out date, etc. Ie, they have to keep the ten year old capital purchases because they cost so much initially and it needs to be amortized, unlike rich corporations which routinely give out new computers every 3 years.

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray