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Patient access to records can cause extra work and impact patient safety, study says

by Beth Gault
9 September 2022

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Giving patients online access to their health records can unintentionally lead to extra work, poorer record keeping and misunderstandings among patients, a study has found.

The qualitative study, published in the BJGP, looked at the ‘unintended consequences’ of giving patient’s online access to health records, by examining the real-world experiences of 10 GP practices.

It found that access could negatively impact patients’ understanding of their healthcare. For example, some discovered surprising information on their records or information that was difficult to interpret.

Online access also meant that the amount of information GPs included within the record declined, as they avoided recording speculative comments or notes.

The authors noted that this lack of record keeping ‘could have negative medicolegal and patient safety concerns’.

Results from the study also found that practice workload increased, despite assumptions that it would be reduced. This was due to GPs taking on responsibilities, such as managing and monitoring access to the records and ‘taking measures to prevent possible harm’ to patients.

The study authors said: ‘Practices face additional work that is necessary to prepare records for sharing and prepare patients about what to expect.’

They went on to conclude that in order for the intended benefits of patient access to records to be realised – improving control over one’s own healthcare and patient autonomy, efficiency of care and reduction of practice workload – additional support would be needed.

‘It is crucial that practices are adequately supported and resourced to manage the unintended consequences of online access now that it is the “default position,”’ they said.

NHS England is set to switch on automatic access to patients’ prospective GP record via the NHS App in November.

Plans have previously been delayed around safeguarding concerns.