Posted by: Nicholas Swetenham | February 16, 2009

Student access to electronic records

I have been asked for comments on the idea of introducing smartcards for medical students to verify their identity and access the electronic records of the patients they are treating. I agree with this and think it is desirable for the following reasons:

1) Students already access some types of electronic resources in many hospitals, and as electronic records increase in importance it will be increasingly necessary for them to do so. Often, they use the login details of their seniors, which  is both impractical and can potentially cause security/confidentiality issues.

2) Giving students smartcards, while not infallible, is more workable and secure than password-based systems (issuing hundreds of students with individual passwords is seldom achieved). A smartcard with a PIN is not only more secure; it allows for the creation of a proper audit trail (knowing who’s accessed the records) and tight regulation of what a student can do with the records (accessing only the patients in their care, inability to tamper with records intentionally or unintentionally).

For these reasons I have told the BMA I think it is important that such a scheme be put in place.

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