Chelmsford-based GEC Card Technology Ltd’s 5Kb intelligent contactless iC Smart Card, due to be piloted by the Midland Bank Plc at Loughborough University later this year (CI No 900), has now been chosen for a second pilot scheme, which may, long-term, speed up and improve the treatment of patients within the National Health Service. The scheme marks the culmination of a number of technological experiments conducted over several years by Dr Robert Stevens, a lecturer at the Welsh School of Pharmacy, in conjunction with a group of local practitioners and a pharmacy in Pontypridd, Wales. Convinced, through evidence gleaned from the continent, that the computerisation of certain medical details would lead to greater efficiency and better patient care, Dr Stevens and pharmacist Alan Crabbe experimented with chip driven keys and surgerypharmacy-based personal computers, before deciding, for greater memory capacity, upon the use of patient held Smart Cards. In 1985, a two-year sponsorship was sought and won from the Department of Health and Social Security, which provided some UKP60,000 to assist in piloting the details – name, address, sex, blood group, food/medication allergies, chronic illness details and medication dispensing details – held in Dr Stevens’ Meditel software, in conjuction with Mitsubishi-designed Smart Cards. According to Alan Crabbe, patients responded very well to the scheme; some 90% conscientiously brought cards along to the surgery and pharmacy, and only two of the 3,000 patients registered at the surgery refused to participate. Later this year, Pontypridd patients’ Mitsubishi cards will be replaced by GEC iC cards, thanks to a symbiotic arrangement between GEC Card Technology and the Stevens team, which had decided during the two-year Mitsubishi pilot, that the re-usable memory of an E2PROM card, coupled with the extended card life promised by the contactless inductive-powered reading system pioneered by GEC, was appropriate for its long-term needs. Other Health Service patients will have to wait some time before they reap the medical benefits of card technology: the Department is currently reviewing the report of the Pontypridd-Mitsubishi scheme, and will await the results of two or three similar trials using a range of cards – and a general drop in the price of the cards before considering a wider implementation. According to a Department spokesman, time and energy would also have to be spent in convincing card carriers that security and confidentiality were not being breached: one suggestion is the establishment of a terminal where patients would be able to examine the details held on their cards in private.
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