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Delivering healthcare’s ‘triple aim’: Electronic Health Records and the health research participant in the UK National Health Service

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1312-1327
Number of pages16
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Issue number6
Accepted/In press25 Mar 2020
Published1 Jul 2020


King's Authors


The UK National Health Service (NHS) is changing. Consecutive UK industrial strategies have supported the shift from an NHS that provides free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare to one that also facilitates research. Said to promote healthcare’s triple aim of ‘better health, better healthcare, and lower cost’ (Wachter, 2016, 3), the digitisation of patient records is a core part in opening routine aspects of the health system to potential research. In this paper, we thematically analyse 11 policy documents and ask, how does the NHS discuss its decision to digitise patient records and what are the implications of such practices on the citizen? We document how (1) digitisation is presented as a collective endeavour for patients and NHS professionals, offering new possibilities for patients to participate in their own health and that of the population through research and, (2) digitisation contributes to the building of an efficient health system. Through this analysis we reflect on how discussions of digitisation present uncritically the potential of Electronic Health Records and big data analytics to improve care and generate wealth through research, and reconfigure patienthood, by placing research participation as a routine part of accessing NHS healthcare.

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