How our practice website offers online records access
Dr Amir Hannan explains how an innovative practice website helped overcome a grim legacy
To overcome the grim legacy left by Harold Shipman and restore patients' trust in our practice, the Haughton Thornley Medical Centres website (www.htmc.co.uk) had to be something different. It carries far more than just the basic contact details and staff listings – it also includes a wide range of content written by both staff and patients and offers patients the option to access their electronic records. The site gets more than 2,000 visits and more than 6,000 page views each month.
How was the website developed?
The site was designed and developed in partnership with InteractivHealth using its Practice Portal Builder, allowing us to provide comprehensive and cost-effective health information for patients, which the practice can fully control. This means that relevant health information and access to services are available to those patients and family members who have internet access, whenever they need it.
How is the website run?
Once implemented, the site is fully editable and requires little more than word-processing skills, allowing the practice to focus on making relevant, timely, concise information available for patients.
Practice Portal Builder also allows us to incorporate information feeds from trusted sources, ensuring the site is constantly fresh and, most importantly, up to date with little or no effort from practice staff. The intranet also provides a reliable means for staff to be kept up to date as well.
What else does it provide?
As well as the relevant local and national information, the practices have also incorporated the explicit consent process for patients to safely access their own electronic health records – along with supporting YouTube videos, blogs and advice, all in one place. The site is their own practice portal, open 24 hours a day.
Who is using it?
More than 800 patients in the practice now have access to their health records via the practice website, which helps individuals
to understand their care better. GPs and practice staff are in an ideal position to understand patients' information needs, which they can then translate into an information source for others to benefit too.
What input do patients have?
Content has also been provided by patients themselves, not only via the practice blog, but also specific guides on how best to prepare for an out-of-hours encounter for example. We have also incorporated foreign language advice through the use of video for our Bengali population.
Is it proving popular?
Use of the site has grown since the site went live in the summer of 2008 and, this year alone, in the region of 90,000 pages will be accessed by the practice's patients and family members.
What about the intranet?
This is constantly updated with information including practice events and documents – all of which can be automatically displayed on the public site for patients if relevant.
It also has useful links, such as swine flu updates from the Department of Health, referral forms and latest news from the practice manager for the staff – many of whom work part-time, so access the site from home too. We also carry the Pulse news headlines, which ensures staff can stay in touch with relevant news as it happens.
Eighteen months on, it's hard to imagine life at the practice without our patient portal. The future is real-time digital medicine – isn't it time you thought about offering the same to your patients?
Dr Amir Hannan is a full-time GP at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres in Hyde, Lancashire, and a founding member of the Records Access Collaborative.
For more information contact amir.hannan @nhs.net