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The waiting game

GPs restricting patients' access to online records

GPs are restricting patients’ access to records to that specified in the GP contract amid fears over a ‘blunt tool’ that could cause data protection issues, systems providers have said.

EMIS has said that the numbers of practices providing patients with online access to their records has ‘shot up’ after it allowed GPs to tailor the parts of the record that patients can see.

The 2014/15 GMS contract requires GPs to provide patients with online access to the medication, allergies and adverse reactions in their summary care record as a minimum, by April 2015. But NHS managers have said they expect GPs to ‘go beyond’ these contract minimums.

EMIS has made revisions to its system that allows practices to set access limits for the entire patient list, or customise it for individuals, including access to free text, letters and documents that would otherwise need to be assessed for third party or harmful information.

Ben Foster, an operations director at EMIS, said that practices were ‘nervous’ about the ‘blunt tool’ of online access.

He said: ‘All of this comes from conversations with practices who might say “I’m a bit nervous about this blunt tool: switching it on or off, if I could enable certain bits it’s really going to help us take up the service”.’

He added: ‘Since going live, hundreds of practices have chosen to enable part of the record. I think, initially, around 100 practices had it enabled in the old [all or nothing]way, but since enabling [tailored access] we’ve seen it shoot up with the move towards April 2015.’

Other system suppliers are currently developing their systems to allow tailored access in line with the GP Systems of Choice provider requirements.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Azeem Majeed

    The Health & Social Care Information Centre reports that by Q4 of 2013-14, around 3% of general practices had switched on the functionality to allow patients to access their GP records online. Even in practices that had enabled online access, take-up by patients was low. Take-up of transactional services such as appointment booking is higher with around of 7% of patients able to do this.

    In my own practice, we have enabled transactional services and now offer online appointment booking and ordering of repeat prescriptions. We are also starting to grant access to medical records. However, there is a lot of work associated with this – for example, explaining to patients how to log on, dealing with technical queries from patients etc.

    There are potential benefits from online access to medical records and transactional services - but like of lot of primary care initiatives, the workload has been under-estimated, and rollout has not been well-planned by the NHS England or properly resourced.

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  • Tailored access = paternalism rules.

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  • Well said Anon 4.26pm. This is a convenient way of enabling GPs to 'cover-up' anything they don't want patients their patients to read. I've been through it all myself. Any patient who does not get full access to their records should complain to the ICO.

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  • Anon@6.52pm - you are missing the point. It is not access to records that is the issue but on-line access to records with all the additional security and confidentiality risks that such access brings.

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  • Anon@6.42pm - any patient is welcome to come in and view their entire medical record. On-line access however is potentially dangerous. How do you know it is the patient who is accessing the record or someone who has been forced to yield their access codes to violent partners to discover what has been said?
    GPs keep detailed medical records to help them provide the best possible care for the patient. Sometimes that involves documenting data the patient might not like even though accurate.
    On line access is open to abuse and will devalue the standard of the record kept if GPs do not record relevant data for fear of abuse by a third party.

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  • It never ceases to amaze me how many so-called 'other healthcare professionals' or lay people a. Gain access to this general practice forum and b. Use it for no other reason than to have a dig. I know that I am not the only person who works in general practice is a bit fed up Pulse lets these trolls continued to kick us when we're down-surely there must have their own forum which they can comment on to their hearts content.

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  • Steve
    Let them spew their bile and display their ignorance at the same time. A well reasoned reply may enlighten them (or maybe not!)

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  • Yes how do lay people get on this site? I think a lot of practices are willing to enable people to see their notes and share in their care as this is good practice but are worried about the possibility of it being open to abuse on line and how secure this is. You are right how do we know who is actually accessing notes and where do we stand medicolegally if there is a problem with someone gaining unauthorized access?

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