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Clearly spurred on by recent Welsh successes (CI No 920), the UK Department of Health and Social Security is backing a second, one year pilot scheme to assess the benefits of placing Health Service medical records on patient-held Smart Cards. The UKP400,000 scheme, which is scheduled to go live in October, will be run in conjunction with a Health Centre, a local doctor’s surgery, a hospital, two pharmacies and a dental practice in Exmouth, Devon, and will use around 8,500 of the 16Kb CP8 care cards, developed in the mid-1970s by Groupe Bull in France. Project co-ordinators claim that the structure of the card’s 16Kb of non-erasable RAM ensures that data stored on the card is secure and accessible only to appropriate, authorised personnel. This is achieved by dividing data into different zones: while some data zones are accessed in the standard fashion by entering the card into the read-write terminal, others are protected by individual personal identification numbers – or PINs – while some, including the zone where the PIN is stored, can not be accessed under any circumstances, once entered on the card. In practice, doctors responsible for compiling patient data will be issued with authorisation cards and two-slot read-write terminals, enabling communication with all PIN-protected zones on patient cards to take place, while pharamacists and dentists, who are not accorded the same levels of data access, will receive one slot terminals. A terminal has also been made available for patients to examine the details held about them on their cards in absolute privacy. Initially, cards will be issued to diabetics, and to patients who are over 65 or under five years of age, and will carry up to 80 diagnosis and 50 prescription details. Card life is estimated to be between three to five years, depending on the length of the patient’s recent medical history.

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