Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for health, has announced plans to give all patients in the UK access to their entire medical records online by 2018, and to let them read and add to their GP record using their smartphone within a year, reports The Guardian.
Currently, patients can only view a summary of their medical history unless they make a full application for their medical records under the Data Protection Act 1998. Mr Hunt has pledged that full GP records, including information about blood-test results, appointment records and medical histories, will be available next year, although it is not yet clear how that will happen.
Mr Hunt’s hope is that allowing patients to access their own records will lead to mistakes being rectified and to patients taking their own health more seriously. Using smartphone devices, patients would be able to add useful information such as the number of steps they walk each day so that their GP can monitor their physical activity.
Some doctors have expressed concern that, from 2018, patients will be able to see the notes on their medical records that they were never intended to see. For example, a GP or other health professional may have recorded that a patient may be at risk of cancer because they smoke but never told the person that directly.
Dr Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has warned that these proposals could put even greater pressure on GPs, who are already under significant pressure to see a high volume of patients, and they will not have the time to review this additional data to monitor patients’ health.
Lucie Prothero, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, comments: “We can see the potential benefit of these proposals to empower patients to take more responsibility for their own health. We deal with many clinical negligence cases which have arisen from simple system failures or lack of information being conveyed to patients. An example of this is where abnormal blood test results are neither communicated to patients nor acted upon resulting in delayed diagnoses of diseases such as cancer.
“Through greater access to their medical records, patients will be encouraged to engage more in their own health issues and prompt discussions with GPs about leading a healthier lifestyle.”