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87% of doctors think online medical records will raise patient expectations, MPS report reveals

Post date: 09/05/2013 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

The Medical Protection Society (MPS) has launched a report on the views of doctors and the public on online medical records. One of the issues highlighted is the disparity between the services that patients expect they will receive through online access to their records and what doctors think is realistic in the immediate term. 

Dr Stephanie Bown, Director of Policy and Communications at MPS said, 'We support online access to medical records as a way of helping patients increase their knowledge and understanding, promote autonomy and enhance the doctor-patient relationship. However, there are risks that need to be addressed and the current rhetoric does not reflect what is practical and realistic.

One of the advantages of online access is that patients can be more involved in their care and able to identify mistakes in their records. This already happens to a certain extent with paper records, as a quarter of patients who already access their records do so to check the accuracy. However, there is a disparity in views as 40% of the public who would like to be able to make changes to their medical records would like to do so regardless of whether their GP approves of them or not, whilst only 7.5% of doctors would want patients to make changes, without their approval.

It was also concerning to find out that a quarter (26%) of the public agree that they should be able to request that their entire medical record is deleted. There is a common understanding as to what medical records are for and patient and doctors need supporting to develop a collaborative approach to amending medical records to achieve this purpose

Our survey also revealed that 87% of doctors think online access to records will increase expectations for speedier help, which is supported by over half (54%) of the public expecting a response to an email for „routine support‟ within a day, compared to only 14% of doctors. This stark difference suggests that what the public expects is at odds with what the doctor think is realistic.

There needs to be careful efforts to avoid inflating public expectations beyond what can realistically be delivered and creating public disenchantment with what will be a valuable innovation. A more collaborative approach, listening to the concerns of both doctor and patient, could realign patient expectations with the complicated reality of delivering modern healthcare.'

There are also issues around:

Security – Both doctors and the public are concerned for the security of medical records if they become accessible online. We ask for greater patient awareness about how they can protect their own data.

Purpose of record – There is a common understanding that the main purpose of medical records is to give the doctor an overview of the patient's medical treatments; however, there is a difference in opinion in how they should be written, with 75% of the public agreeing that medical records should be written in simple language. Doctors and patients need to reach an understanding that doctors need to continue to use medical terminology to allow effective communication between doctors, and patients need tools to help them make sense of records.

Vulnerable people – Around 5.2 million households do not have internet access, which may affect some groups most likely to benefit from online access such as very elderly and chronically sick. Steps need to be taken to ensure that vulnerable individuals and groups have ther interests protected and that information available online will always be available in other formats where necessary.

Sensitive information – There is a case for special restrictions to be placed on parts of a person‟s medical record, or on certain categories of information for all patients. For example, particularly sensitive information, such as mental health, sexual health, child protection and counselling, could be restricted by default on an online record


Further information

To view MPS’s research report on 'Online medical records and the doctor-patient partnership' please click here. For more information please contact Kim Watson, Press Officer at MPS on +44 207 399 1409 or email

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