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UK doctors get online patient access guidance

RCGP looks at practicalities of giving patients online access to records and services

Patient Online Roadmap launch
The launch of Patient Online: a Roadmap (l-r): Dr Peter Short, GP; Chris Ghush, head of RCGP CIRC; Dr Imran Rafi, chair of CIRC; Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt; Dr Clare Gerada, chair of RCGP; and Dr Arvind Madan, GP

UK doctors have been given new guidance to help them provide patients with online access to services like booking GP appointments and ordering repeat prescriptions.

Patient Online: a Roadmap also covers such other 'transactional services' as secure online communication with the practice and access to online records.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Appointments, prescriptions and test results can, and should be, only a click away. Records - which help patients work in partnership with their doctor to manage their care - also need to be easily accessible.”

Hunt has an ambitious plan for the NHS to go paperless by 2018 and as part of this the NHS Commissioning Board wants all GP practices in England to offer patients online access to their records and transactional services by 2015.

The Royal College of General Practitioners' (RCGP), which lead on the development of the new guidance, says giving patients access to their own records presents both “great opportunities and major challenges”.

RCGP chair Dr Clare Gerada said: "From the outset, our focus has been on the practical steps needed for GP practices to deliver patient online access by 2015 and we believe that the Roadmap is an appropriate, workable and realistic way forward for all those involved."

The guidance looks at the principles of online access to records by patients, steps towards offering access, and the principles around training, education and support for practices. Issues around information governance, including third party data and GP workload, are taken into account.

Dr Imran Rafi, chair of the RCGP Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, who led the Patient Online programme, said: "We can use IT to deliver quality accessible care that addresses health inequalities, to reduce fragmentation of care and provide coordinated care for people with multiple morbidities, and to involve patients and carers more in decisions about their health.

“But when considering the value of IT, we must also take into account the unintended consequences of the use of health IT, such as exacerbating the digital divide."

The RCGP says some GPs are already providing various forms of online access and that its voluntary guidance is meant to supplement their current working practices.

Patient Online also explores the different elements within a clinical record that could be made available for access, assessing the potential benefits and risks of making these elements accessible. It addresses the distinction between online services such as appointment booking and online records.

• Read: Patient Online: a Roadmap

7th March 2013

From: Healthcare

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