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Proceed slowly on patient record access and evaluate risk of coercion, experts warn

Giving patients access to their GP records online should be implemented slowly, with full evaluation of potential risks posed by vulnerable patients being coerced into sharing with third parties, experts have said.

The British Journal of General Practice’s editorial this week states that online record access is likely to have a ‘transformative effect’ on general practice, as well as the way that GPs use their record.

Of particular concern is ‘coercion’ or information leakage within households, for example where a patient has experienced domestic abuse, or where a parent might pressure their child to share their record – though automatic access for parents will stop at age 12.

This could make patients reluctant to share information, and equally make the GP less likely to record sensitive information thus diminishing the benefits of the record and patient care.

One author Professor Gene Feder, a GP and professor of primary care at Bristol’s Centre for Academic Primary Care, said: ‘Coercion may result from overt threats or physical force in an abusive relationship or may appear under the guise of helping a vulnerable relative, especially older people or those with learning disabilities.’

But the access ‘juggernaut’ is now too big to be stopped, the editorial states, with the Government pledging full access and the ability to comment on their GP record by 2018.

The editorial states: ‘For those currently implementing online access, we suggest keeping it simple and limiting online access to recent information which has clear medical utility; such as test results, referral letters, clinic letters, current medication, and allergies.’