Patient access to records can lead to extra work and impact patient safety, study finds

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

The qualitative study, published in the BJGP, examined the ‘unintended consequences’ of patients’ online access to health records, looking at the real-life experiences of 10 GP practices.

He found that access can have a negative impact on patients’ understanding of their healthcare. For example, some have discovered surprising information in their files or information that is difficult to interpret.

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

The authors noted that this lack of record keeping “could have medico-legal and patient safety issues.”

The study results also revealed that the workload of the practice has increased, despite assumptions that it would be reduced. This was because GPs took on responsibilities, such as managing and monitoring access to records and “taking steps to prevent possible harm” to patients.

The study authors said, “Practices face the extra work needed to prepare records for sharing and prepare patients for what to expect.”

They went on to conclude that for the intended benefits of patient access to records to be realized – improved control over one’s own health care and patient autonomy, efficiency of care, and reduced burden of practice work – additional support would be needed.

“It is crucial that practices are properly 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 enable automatic access to patients’ prospective GP records via the NHS app in November.

The plans have already been delayed due to backup issues.

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