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Widespread support for electronic health record data sharing

Most think it will improve care and curb medical errors, poll indicates

Caroline White

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Most (85%) patients want any healthcare professional who treats them to have secure electronic access to key data from their GP health record, find the results of an online YouGov survey.

A representative sample of 2,343 adults were quizzed about the sharing of electronic health records at the end of June this year for the survey.

The results show that most of those surveyed backed the use of electronic health records: 77% thought they would improve patient care, while 69% believed they would reduce avoidable treatment errors.

And two thirds (67%) thought they would save patients the frustration of having to repeat information to medical professionals other than their GP.

Respondents were surprised that emergency care doctors in particular do not have automatic access to information on long-term conditions, medication history or allergies, and fear it could lead to mistakes in treatment.

The poll showed that over half the population (58%) are unaware that hospital doctors are often unable to electronically access information from a patient’s GP health record. Most emergency care doctors either have to treat without it, or phone the GP to ask for information to be faxed through.

The poll found that almost two thirds of people (61%) are worried that failing to share vital information about their health with emergency care doctors could result in treatment delays or potentially life-threatening medical errors.

Nearly one in three is shocked (30%) that it isn’t common practice for patient information to be shared electronically, while 40% are annoyed that emergency care doctors may not have all the facts at their disposal.

Speaking at the Health + Care conference in London at the end of June, health secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted that the NHS would not be able to provide integrated care without the sharing of electronic patient records across health and social care.

Chris Spencer, CEO of healthcare information specialist EMIS Group, which commissioned  the YouGov survey, said the survey results indicated that most patients want clinicians to have access to their medical records, and assumed that this already happened.

“The reality is, of course, more complicated. Despite efforts to increase use of the Summary Care Record, and wider initiatives by forward-thinking system suppliers and local healthcare providers, data-sharing between clinicians is far from routine,” he suggested.

“Those of us operating across the healthcare landscape have a responsibility to make sure it does,” he added.

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