Giving patients real-time access to their medical records is a step towards putting them in the driving seat when it comes to managing their health, says the NHS Alliance.
The primary care organisation says that electric records not only give patients access to information about their condition at the touch of a button, but also mean patients can use their records when having consultations abroad or even at home.
For example, a patient admitted to A&E with chest pain shows a junior doctor the reports of the last chest X-rays and ECGs ordered through his general practice. He displays this on his handheld organiser. Or a patient is on holiday and has a medical emergency. Rather than try to remember and explain his whole medical history to the doctor, he can simply log on to his medical records and have everything displayed there and then.
The Alliance says record sharing is a “win-win situation, which not only will benefit patients but will also save the NHS money in the long run”. It claims record sharing also offers better care to patients with reduced use of health services.
The process is safe for both practices and patients, who should be able to access their records with account login information.
Dr Brian Fisher, NHS Alliance’s patient and public involvement lead, said: “Patients are the real winners here and should be fully involved. Patients can use the information to prepare for consultations, for example.
“Also, having access to medical records improves awareness of their condition, and enables them to pass on information obtained when visiting hospitals. Patients feel more in charge of their healthcare.”
The NHS Alliance believes the best approach to record sharing would be a mix of the Spine and a distributed database approach, which is already available to 60% of practices in the UK.