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Offering online records access opens a Pandora’s Box of safety issues

Are you ready and willing to allow your patients access to their medical records?

I suspect the answer to both questions is probably not - and a recent survey by the Medical Protection Society (MPS) suggests neither are the public.

The Government has pledged that patients will have online access to their medical records by 2015 but the survey of members of the public and MPS members showed that 80% of the public and almost 90% of doctors who were asked would be concerned over the security of patients records online.

With only two years until the Government’s deadline, this is all rather worrying, especially as patient access with be part of a DES and will therefore directly affect practice income. As we all know from previous new schemes, this is unlikely to be ‘new’ money.

There is a fierce debate between opponents and supporters of the concept of patient access to their own records, with supporters extolling the virtues of patient engagement and reduced workload in the future. The MPS survey confirms concerns over third party access to the full medical record, and the society warns this could be like opening Pandora’s Box if safeguards are not in place. If patients have full access how long will it be before insurance companies demand a copy? What about an unscrupulous relative of a vulnerable patient? The GPC has also expressed reservations about the scheme.

The argument for patients having a limited access to their record rather than full access seems to be falling on deaf ears. How will this modify the way we record consultations in the future knowing the patient has full access?

Personally I’m not a fan of any of this and I suspect the majority of my patients aren’t either.  When I was a lad I was always taught the medical record was not only used to record facts but also your suspicions about what might be wrong, which often proved to be incorrect in time. As a patient, I’d rather not know what’s going through my GP’s mind when I’m ill.

Dr Hadrian Moss is a GP in Kettering, Northamptonshire. You can tweet him at @DrHMoss.