Nearly every practice in England can now offer online access to detailed patient records.
Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that 95% of GP practices are set to offer patients the ability to view their primary care records.
This proportion is up from just 3% of practices in January this year, allowing access for more than 55 million patients.
The online system will allow patients to view test results as they come in, track their glucose and cholesterol levels online as well as access their referrals, immunisations, procedures and medications history.
The patient records access service is in line with key commitments in the General Practice Forward View, which called for greater use of technology to enhance patient care and reduce administrative burdens on practices.
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.”
A statement from NHS England said that offering GP services online has been shown to benefit practices by reducing “no show” rates by 35%.
Meanwhile, their figures show that by March 2016, 8.5 million patients had signed up to book appointments online with 1.4 million appointments booked or cancelled that month – an increase of more than 100% on the month before.
Dr Imran Rafi, chair of the clinical innovation and research centre at the Royal College of General Practice (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.”
Street Lane practice in Leeds says online records access is a more convenient service for both patients and GPs.
John Snowden, deputy practice manager at Street Lane, said: “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.”