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GPs say online patient access to medical records will boost workload and litigation

GPs say online patient access to medical records will boost workload and litigation

GPs in England are sceptical of patients having online access to their medical records, believing it will cause confusion, increase workload and could lead to more litigation, a study has found.

A survey of 400 GPs from all regions of England found that many GPs believed patients able to access their records would worry more and find them more confusing than helpful.

In addition, more than eight in ten GPs feared they would spend more time addressing patient concerns outside of consultations but also that appointments would take significantly longer as a result.

Yet there were some benefits, those participating in the study said. In all, 70% agreed patients would better remember their care plan and 60% said having online access to their medical records would help patients feel more in control of their care.

Among significant concerns about workload, 60% of GPs also said that most patients would find significant errors in their records.

Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said they would or are already less candid in their documentation as a consequence of the move. And nearly two-thirds felt the risks of litigation would increase.

By the time of the survey in 2022, a quarter of GPs questioned had switched on online records access.

In December, one in five practices had not yet switched on prospective records access despite the deadline for complying being the end of October.

Latest figures show 83% of GP practices now offer full online prospective record access by default.

The digital transformation programme for online prospective record access is set to completes on 31 March. Local commissioners are working to support those practices who have not yet moved over.

GP leaders had urged practices to do a data protection impact assessment (DPIA) before enabling records access, and to consider an opt-in model if risks are identified.

Reporting the findings in BMJ Open, the team of Swedish and UK researchers said similar views had been found when clinicians were surveyed in other countries that had already provided more access to records, including the USA and Sweden.

But they said digital first models of primary care, had accelerated during the pandemic, ‘may have exacerbated GPs’ concerns about work burdens’ as well as the rapid adoption of digital tools without adequate training and possible negative consequences of such policies.

‘Most GPs in this England-wide survey agreed there were multiple benefits to patients from accessing their online health records,’ they concluded.

‘Nonetheless, like clinicians in other countries, a majority of surveyed GPs believed patients would worry more and find their records more confusing than helpful, with increased contact with patients and added work burdens.’

It will be important to continue to evaluate GP and patient experiences as online record access becomes routine, they added.

‘Notwithstanding, in England, patients’ online access to their GPs’ records is here to stay. In the coming months, it will be crucial for GPs, primary care staff and patients to adapt to this radical change in practice.’

An NHS England spokesperson said: ‘As most GPs surveyed for this study agree, these changes will bring significant benefits for patients who will feel more in control and across the details of their care with over 24 million people already able to view test results, check consultation notes and order repeat prescriptions via the NHS App -which at least 3.1 million people do every month.’



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Nigel Dickson 2 February, 2024 1:07 pm

Although I can understand some GPs anxieties the reality is online patient access to their medical records will come and go in the same way we all worried about the world collapsing at midnight on 31st December 1999. Came and went.

Truth Finder 2 February, 2024 3:06 pm

Communication between professionals should not be given to patients. They come asking for explanation of medical terms, nit picking and wasting time and blocking others who are ill from seeking help.

Sam Tapsell 2 February, 2024 6:26 pm

We enabled full access in early 2023 without a fanfare. Its been no problem here. (3000 patient rural practice).

Brian McMillan 5 February, 2024 2:38 pm

NHSE have commissioned a survey of GP practice staff to understand our perceptions and experiences of the NHS app and website. Gets your views heard here: