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Less than 1% of practices offer patients electronic records

Cultural change needed to meet personal health record goals

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Less than 1% of GP practices provide patients with electronic health records, well short of the government’s projected uptake rate.

Currently, the Department for Health has projected an uptake of 5% by 2015, yet a newly published report, suggests that significant work is needed in terms of infrastructure and cultural changes to reach even this modest goal.

The report*: ‘Personal Health Records- Putting patients in Control?’ from the independent think-tank 2020Health, was revealed this week at a roundtable in Westminster. In it, the authors claim that Personal Health Records can save lives.

For example, if a man from Yorkshire who had taken up the service had an accident whilst holidaying in Wales, NHS staff would immediately have access to any prior conditions or allergies.

And the report cites research led by Claudia Pagliari of the University of Edinburgh who recently reviewed stakeholder experience at 32 of the 57 general practices offering Records Access. Published in May 2012, the study found that both patients and clinicians believed Record Access had facilitated shared decision making, health knowledge and self management. Indeed, 92.3% of patients said it had improved their knowledge of their condition with 76.9% saying it had helped them to manage their health through encouraging them to take medication on time and follow lifestyle advice.

However, public perception remains a big barrier to uptake of electronic health records, with many patients unfamiliar or sceptical about the government storing their data online.

John Cruickshank who authored the 2020Health report said: “People use the internet for banking, learning, business and more besides. Management of healthcare online must be next. What we need is a cultural change: patients need to move from being passive recipients of care to being much more involved in its planning and management.

“We cannot cling to a system that has more in common with the 1950s than the twenty-first century. The evidence increasingly suggests that patients who engage with healthcare online enjoy far better health outcomes.”

2020Health believes the report will put pressure on the new Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to speed-up the government’s drive to maximise the benefits of using new technology in the health service.

Dame Helena Shovelton, 2020Health Chairman said: “Our work generally confirmed that where already provided, electronic access facilities are well liked by patients. The evidence points towards an increase in patient knowledge, communication and satisfaction. Even seemingly small things, like booking an appointment and ordering a repeat prescription, are valuable to patients.”

*The report was based on face-to-face and online surveys (totalling over 250 respondents).

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