Subject access requests and online technology have opened the debate over GP reports. Ian Smart asks if this could remove a perennial insurance bugbear.
The recent decision by some protection providers to start using subject access requests (SARs) under the Data Protection Act, instead of GP reports obtained under the Access to Medical Reports Act, has sparked some heated debate.
Comments range from it being foolish to “about time – everyone should do it”.
The reality is that, at least in the short term, the outcome is going to end up somewhere in between the two extremes and hopefully, the longer term future will bring something of benefit to all.
SIZING UP FOR BATTLE
But before looking at where this may go, it is helpful to look at where we are now. SARs are not new and have been available for some time as a means to gather medical evidence.
In its 2010 guidance to insurers on requesting medical evidence from GPs, the Association of British Insurers (ABI), specifically mentioned SARs and gave guidance on how they should be used.
Such rules included that insurers must ensure there is no potential for a request to be seen as an enforced SAR. Therefore, the SAR must not be the only mechanism by which information can be requested. If an applicant does not wish to authorise an SAR, there must be another way to obtain the data – for example, the GP report request.
Insurers must explain to the applicant how the process could work and give an alternative option to authorise the requesting of medical information. They must also obtain the applicant’s specific informed consent for the insurer to act for the applicant in obtaining this information.
An SAR will cover the full medical record. Insurers must inform the GP that they do not require sight of restricted information – such as predictive genetic tests and a single instance of an STI – and would have no objection to the record being redacted in this respect. That is, if the GP believes it is in the interest of their patient.
So, in terms of the process of requesting the information, on the face of it there is no significant difference between an SAR and a GP report. The client still needs to consent to the insurer requesting the SAR on their behalf having received an explanation of the process and what the insurer will do with the information.