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Patient Online Access
The Improving Patient Online Access Enhanced Service will end soon and GP practices must implement their GMS/PMS contractual requirements of online booking of appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions and access to summary information held in patients’ records by March 2015. The aim of the enhanced service was to establish patient online access to GP practice information systems to enable patient online access for greater convenience, safety, efficiency and capacity for self-care.
It seems that, despite practices having to display a statement of intent if they hadn’t yet enabled all 3 online services, many patients still don’t know they can access their GP medical record online, but patients who do believe it could help them manage their own health better and ease pressure on their GP. Many practices have allowed patients to order their repeat prescriptions online for a while now and some also offered online booking of appointments quite early on. However, it seems that the subject of allowing patients to freely ‘look’ at their medical record online is understandably met with some initial reservation by practices.
Access to everything?
Patients will be able to have access to ‘everything’ in the medical record but practices can choose what patients can view for example a summary, test results, allergies, letters, medications or immunisations. I agree with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) which says that GPs should not be forced to give patients retrospective access to information in their medical records as it would pile work on practices and risk destabilising the doctor-patient relationship. The RCGP also suggests that access to records should be ‘prospective’ by default and that practices should be able to set an ‘access from’ date for all records.
It may feel like a daunting process to implement at first but thankfully there is a tool available called ‘Patient Online’ which is an NHS England programme designed to support GP practices to offer and promote online services to patients, including access to records, online appointment booking and online repeat prescriptions. I have found it to be a very useful guide which includes materials developed by the RCGP such as guidance and practice tools, as well as materials for patients, frequently asked questions, regional and local support arrangements. It offers clarification of pertinent issues such as proxy access and coercion. Whether we like it or not it’s the next step in making services more convenient and personal for patients who want to take more control of their own health and wellbeing.