Using a patient-held record abroad

“For the first time, I feel safe enough to go on holiday”

Patient, St Mark’s Hospital


I remember one of the first patients at St Mark’s Hospital in Greater London, who used Patients Know Best (PKB). He told me that only after having his test results from St Mark’s and his doctors available for online consultations, did he feel safe enough to have a holiday outside the U.K. Impressively, he then went to Australia (I would have aimed more timidly for France or Ireland) but I remember thinking that “I know how he must feel”. It’s the same as my parents and I felt – anxious about me travelling far away from my hospital (as a patient with a rare condition myself), limiting the universities I felt safe enough to study in.

Today, I’m pleased to say that 1% of PKB daily usage is international. These are patients accessing their PKB record outside of the country of the health care provider who had set up their account.

PKB removes the geographic lock-in that is harmful for patient care. Sweden’s government is lauded for having built a national portal early on for patients to access their records but the portal cannot be accessed without a Swedish banking ID. NHS England’s ‘Patient Online GP Portal’ contract allows locking down access to a UK IP address, which TPP’s SystmOnline does. The NHS App is only available on U.K app stores, so U.K taxpayers that have come from abroad cannot download the app (nor can they download TPP’s SystmOnline GP app).

This is an example of how governments that often claim to build a citizen-centric record are actually building a government-centric one. The very term ‘citizen-centric’ makes it about the citizenship of a government, rather than the health of a person.

Allowing borderless care is even more important for countries which are smaller, more connected with a mainland and with more expatriates. For example, the EU, West Asia and South-East Asia are particularly affected. Even inside countries with large populations like the UK, borderless information sharing is the foundation of health and social care services. PKB is the only system in the UK deployed across borders of Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs), Local Health and Care Record Exemplars (LHCREs) and regional health boards. PKB has pioneered this approach for the last decade – our UK patients use PKB from across the country, regardless of which institutions created their record. Like Linda, who lives in Bradford (West Yorkshire) but received treatment in North West London, where she was given access to the Care Information Exchange (powered by Patients Know Best).

PKB works in 20 languages

Interestingly, 1% of patients using PKB in the U.K have set their preferred language to a non-English one. Yet we believe, this is still an underestimation of the number of people who prefer to speak a language other than English. This 1% is just the proportion of patients who either explicitly set their PKB account to a language other than English, or who have set their smartphone language which PKB then has automatically detected. These patients are some of the hardest to reach and help. 

2019.11.International users.UK

For the NHS, South Asian and East European translations help some of the most socio-economically deprived and vulnerable patients. In a bid to bridge these gaps, we are now working with Kitrinos Healthcare to deliver care for patients in refugee camps in Greece. Our platform works in Greek for professionals and also in Arabic, which is spoken by many of the refugees. For private providers, Arabic, Chinese and Russian translations are important for their travelling clients.

To find out more about how patients are using PKB, see our latest case studies.


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