Patient access to online health records has the potential to transform patient care. Greater access to information for patients can increase knowledge and understanding, promote autonomy and informed choice and enhance the doctor–patient partnership.
In order to realise these advantages, great care needs to be taken to manage the associated risks. MPS is acutely aware of the importance of keeping sensitive information confidential and has significant experience of the risks facing patients if their information is not protected.
We have contributed to the RCGP’s implementation plan for GP practices – Patient Online: The Road Map1 – and support the principle of their pragmatic phased approach.
We have also contributed to the Information Governance Review2 led by Dame Fiona Caldicott, which will play an important role in informing safeguards for patient information. But success will require the engagement and participation of individual doctors and patients across the country.
This report sets out MPS’s research into what the public and doctors think.3 Our research shows it is not enough to just equip patients with the ability to access their medical records online and inform them of their rights; patients also need to be supported and informed about how to understand and use their information safely, appropriately and effectively.
We are concerned that the need for this support has not been given adequate consideration and think it should be an essential component of implementation plans from the outset.
The current rhetoric around the new services patients will have does not reflect the emerging implementation plans, or what is practical. This could mean that the promise of online medical records will merely serve to widen the gap between what patients expect from their healthcare and the reality of what can be delivered.