This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

GP practices can avoid thousands of consultations with patient access to records, study finds

GP practices can avoid thousands of appointments and phone calls every year by allowing patients to access to their own records electronically, researchers claim.

A practice with 10,000 patients could save 4747 appointments and 8020 telephone calls annually because these patients can get answers to their questions themselves instead of having to contact their surgeries, researchers found after extrapolating results from a study of online record access at two practices.

Some 229 patients at GP practices in Glossop, Derbyshire and in Hyde, Greater Manchester were surveyed to work out whether accessing their electronic records had increased or decreased their use of the practice over the previous year.

Results showed that 135 Hyde patients had made 255 fewer phone calls overall and needed 212 fewer appointments with doctors, nurses or healthcare assistants. At Glossop the figures for 94 patients were 325 fewer phone calls and 110 fewer appointments.

Savings per patient per year at these two surgeries were £44.39 and £29.08 respectively, said the researchers, led by medical student Caroline Fitton from St George’s Hospital in London.

Certain studies from other countries, including the United States and Finland, have previously highlighted costs savings through giving patients access to their primary care records, the researchers said.

‘The effects in our study are likely to be the result of people doing things for themselves, typical of online experience,’ said the researchers in their paper, published in the London Journal of Primary Care. ‘Patients can find out more about their care and make some decisions without contacting the practice.’

They added: ‘We suggest that the time is right for a full-scale study of record access within general practice, including benefits and costs to both patients and practices, using objective measures rather than self-reported data.’

The researchers caution, however, that the Hyde and Glossop practices have particulary enthusiastic electronic record users, and that patients in affluent areas may be more likely to embrace a record access system than those in more deprived areas.

Ministers have said that patients will not be able to read any retrospective information from their GP records when they are allowed to access them online next year after the RCGP argued that the risks of patients seeing unsuitable information would pile work on practices to check all retrospective records.

Readers' comments (13)

  • A self selecting number of patients choose to access their patient records. A smaller number respond to a survey (8% in one of the two practices) and estimate their reduced use of appointments. This number is extrapolated to all of UK.
    Interesting question, but the "answer" is effectively plucked out of the air.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 4747 appts per year is 19 appts saved every working day, and 8020 phone calls is 32 fewer calls per working day. For a list of 10,000, (same as my practice) that is total pie in the sky, I would be surprised if it saved more than one a day.
    This is what happens when you extrapolate from 229 "particularly enthusiastic electronic record users". The paper lists who funded it and their interests. Hmm.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'd be quite happy for patients to be able to access their records. As far as I know the main GP IT suppliers don't offer this as a package to patients but if they do I'd support this.
    Practically everyone else has access anyway so why exclude the patient themselves!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm for patient access having access to their records but this study is complete bo***cks

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Overall response rate was 12% and as far as I can see from the study paper we have only patients' own say-so that they "would have booked an appointment" if they had been unable to access their record.

    Extrapolating from 12% of (presumably) the most enthusiastic responders to the entire national population does seem statistically naive.

    As does assuming that when a patient says "If I hadn't accessed my records online, I would have booked an appointment" is actually evidence that an appointment has been saved.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • rubbish

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • not too worry ... by the time 100's of practices close and GPs leave there will be a lot less appoinments available !

    let's see .... if the average GP has 50 contacts a day 5 days a week and we lose 100 GPs that frees up 1.3 million appointments ... job done.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I don’t have a problem with making patient records available.
    What is dreadful is the whole principle, of publicising junk that will be used by the wrong people against your own group.

    This piece of work demonstrates much that is wrong with doctors. It will be seized on by Agent Hunt and NHS E as proving that their policies are going to greatly reduce the workload on GPs. It won’t matter to them that this piece of work is utter junk. How can the author and other people named in it hold their heads up and not be scarlet with embarrassment? It is so clearly, obviously and totally flawed in its method and conclusion that I would have been too embarrassed to have my name printed on it. Yet the doctors who did it are happy to publicise it and provide dangerous false ammunition to politicians to use against other doctors.

    I have never known any group of people who are so willing to pour cr*p on each other, as doctors are.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To add to my comments above, I agree this study is worthless.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Am I being really dense? I cannot see any way that seeing my records would obviate the need to see my doctor!
    Can someone suggest an example??

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say