Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s Director for Improving the Quality of Life for People with Long Term Conditions, sees innovation and people power at work:
For a long time I have wanted to visit Dr Amir Hannan in his practice. Finally I managed to drive over the Pennines and find it, tucked away, in Hyde on a Friday afternoon. I was late and his uber friendly and helpful reception staff whisked me upstairs.
Gathered round a table were some members of the Practice. The members were people who worked there but the majority were people who used the services being provided – but all gave the sense of ‘membership’.
Amir talked about the progress the Practice was making with uptake of on-line access to medical records, Instant Medical History, secure messaging and the web portal which patents can access or be directed to source a wealth of information, advice and functionality.
By design or accident, it doesn’t matter, Amir had to leave the meeting and I was left alone with about a dozen people who used the practice and were fervent advocates of the potential and benefits of personal record access. They told me how helpful it was to be able to read their own results, their own letters and how it meant they could support professionals with their care and even prevent them making mistakes:
“The hospital doctor told me I had hyperthyroidism and shouldn’t be on thyroxine. I took him through my notes and explained that I had had hyperthyroidism and the treatment had pushed me into hypothyroidism and that was why I was on thyroxine. Having access to my notes helped him treat me better.”
The most telling moment was when I asked whether they wanted mobile access and suddenly I had a raft of mobile phones being waved at me: “I could show you my records now if you wanted me to,” was the chorus.
I had to overcome ingrained prejudices and shock when someone with multiple long term conditions said: “And if my hubby had to call the paramedics I would let them have my password so they could access my records to help me.”
My worry about giving out a password was torpedoed by the swift response: “and I will just change my password when I want to if I think it is a problem.”
Those people with access use services less, but not enough people have yet changed the habits, the culture of a lifetime.
I think Amir told me about 20 per cent had signed up. There was one person who quietly told me that they hadn’t got access yet but were going to now, as they left the meeting, having heard what the others had experienced.
The passion and stories of the members of the Practice made me realise that although I, intellectually, understood the potential, I had not realised just what a transformation giving people control could really have.
So for NHS Change Day here is my pledge – I will seek electronic access to my medical records. I wonder what would happen if everyone working in the NHS sought the same and led the change?
- *With acknowledgment to NESTA who first taught me the phrase: “People Powered Health”