Patients in England will be able to view test results as they come in and keep track of their glucose levels and cholesterol on their smartphones, enabling them to take greater control of their care and better manage their health.
Official figures reveal that over 95% of GP practices are now set up to offer online access to detailed GP records including test results and diagnoses as well as referrals, immunisations, procedures and medications history. This is up from just 3% of practices in January this year.
This latest step is part of a raft of online GP services available to patients, which are designed to make their lives easier and more convenient including online appointment booking and ordering of repeat prescriptions.
Offering GP services online has also been shown to be beneficial for GP practices. For example, ‘no show’ rates for appointments booked online are 35% lower than for appointments booked conventionally, saving significant time and resource for GPs.
Dr Arvind Madan, NHS England Director of Primary Care and a Tower Hamlets GP, said: “We understand our patients lead busy lives and finding time to schedule doctors’ appointments, pick up prescriptions or call up for test results can be a challenge. We want to ensure faster, easier access for patients, as well as support hard pressed practices in becoming more efficient.”
Matthew Swindells, NHS England National Director for Commissioning Operations and Information, said: “We want to give people the tools they need to confidently manage their health. Encouraging patients to access their GP record online helps put them in the driving seat of their care. Patients with long term conditions such as heart disease will be able to track their lab results including cholesterol levels as soon as they come back to their GP and see how they alter in response to lifestyle changes.”
Dr Imran Rafi, Chair of the Clinical Innovation and Research Centre at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), said: “We hope that offering patients online services will help them and their practices to better manage their health, particularly long term conditions. The College has supported practices in offering these services by providing necessary guidance and we look forward to continuing our work with NHS England and other key stakeholders to improve the digital offer in the best interests of our GPs, practice teams and patients.”
Greater use of technology to enhance patient care and experience and reduce the administrative burden on GP practices is a key commitment of the General Practice Forward View, launched by NHS England in April 2016. Today’s achievement reveals significant progress has been made on the ambition to support practices to reduce their workload and achieve a paper-free NHS by 2020.
Figures for March 2016 show that 8.5 million patients have signed up to book appointments online with 1.4 million appointments booked or cancelled during March, an increase of over 100% from April 2015.
GP practices and patients who use these services report a range of benefits, including:
- More empowered patients – Hugh Huddy is a registered blind patient who also suffers from long term asthma. He uses GP online services to access his health information in the privacy of his own home. With a talking smartphone and laptop, he can consult his medical record without having to ask other people to read this to him. Hugh Huddy, patient, says: “Before I had online patient access, I managed my health in a random and very un-private way, I didn’t feel in control. Patient online has given me my privacy. It frees you from having to ask for help and I think that’s so important when you’re managing your health.”
- Reduced workload for practices – Boughton Health Centre reports online appointment booking, ordering of repeat prescriptions and records access have eased the workload of both GPs and reception staff. Ed Henry, a GP at Boughton Health Centre, says: “It has helped reduce telephone demand and appointments. If patients with record access come to see me now, they already know what they want to talk about which makes our consultations more efficient.”
- A more convenient service for all – Street Lane GP practice in Leeds say online records access is a more convenient service for both patients and GPs. John Snowden, Deputy Practice Manager at Street Lane GP practice, says: “We were getting lots of requests from patients who wanted to view their records. These consultations last up to 30 minutes per patient and easily took up a few hours per week. By opening up health records online, patients no longer need to come to the practice but can view their records from home. It saves them time and money, and … it frees up time at the practice for other patients.”