The Association of British Insurers has published guidelines on electronic paperless requests for medical information that insurers need when providing cover.
The principles have been drawn up with input from the Information Commissioner’s Office and the British Medical Association.
Under the new standards, obtaining medical information electronically only takes place where a customer has clearly given consent.
The electronic process must allow the GP to amend, delete or add sensitive personal information before responding to an insurer.
The system must allow GPs to check the information is correct before sending it to an insurer.
Insurers must make sure an electronic request is at least as secure as, or is more secure than, the current paper-based system of obtaining medical information.
Any requests must also be made in accordance with a patient’s rights under relevant legislation, such as the Access to Medical Reports Act 1998.
Raluca Boroianu-Omura, assistant director and head of health and protection at the Association of British Insurers, said: “Obtaining medical information electronically has clear potential benefits for customers, insurers and GPs.
“Insurers often need medical information to process an application for protection insurance cover, such as life insurance, and the current system can take time and add to many GPs’ workloads. Using electronic requests could help save GPs time.
“Obtaining this information electronically could also speed up applications for insurance cover, ensuring customers receive their cover faster than before, as well as making life easier for doctors.
“These guiding principles are an important foundation to ensure that everyone has confidence that safeguards are in place to robustly and consistently protect an individual’s personal medical information.”
Robert Morrison, global life chief underwriter at Aviva, said: “The benefits of an electronic process are wide and importantly our customers tell us overwhelmingly that they would prefer their sensitive medical information to be transmitted electronically.
“As such, our aim is to move to a full electronic process as quickly as we can to help protect more lives more easily, and to introduce electronic GP reports to our claims process to help customers more efficiently when they need us most.”