District nurses would be able to access a patient's GP records from their home, if an award-winning project in Manchester is successfully up-scaled to general practice's across the country.
Dr Amir Hannan, GP at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres in Hyde, and Ingrid Brindle, chair of the practice's patient participation group, spoke to an engaged audience at the QNI District Nursing in the Digital Age on how online access to their records had given patients ownership over their health and reduced health inequalities in the area.
The 10-year-old project allows patients to access their records at any time of day from anywhere, including via an app on their phones. This means that with the password district nurses could access a patient's recent records in the home, obtaining accurate detail on medications and advice given.
Dr Hannan said that data showed mobile phone and tablet device usage was more widespread among patients than was perhaps perceived. Results from the project also suggested that family health managers tended to emerge. Online access meant vulnerable and elderly patients received help and support from a family member who could directly access medication details and clinician advice online.
He presented data from the project showing that 30% of Bengali patients in his practice had access to their records online, while 14% of those with learning difficulties had signed up. This was a way to reduce health inequalities he said.
For asthma and diabetes, 39% had access, while 58% of patients with depression and/or anxiety had access. This showed the benefits to long-term condition management and was an example of how mental health could achieve parity with physical health, he said.
Referring to Care.data, an NHS England initiative to link patient's records to their NHS numbers, which was poorly received by the public, Dr Hannan said a large percentage of his patients who accessed their own records online had opted out of the scheme. The key was, he said, to collaborate with patients and ensure a "partnership of trust". The records access project must fulfill the 6Cs, he said.
Dr Hannan said: 'In Tameside and Glossop we are building a culture that talks about sharing information with patients in a safe way that shows quality and helps to show the art of what is possible.'
Ingrid Brindle spoke about the benefits to patients and clinicians outside primary care. She described patients' ability to access their records remotely as a 'powerful tool' that empowered patients to take control of their health. She said that 'our health is our life's work' and linked online record access to population health.
Dr Hannan now works with the DH to roll out this tool nationwide and he wants to see this level of accessibility in all practices. He said he would like half of the audience present to be able to access their own records online by next year and expressed a desire for everyone to work together to make that a reality.
Dr Hannan was named one of HSJ's top innovators in 2014. The patient records access project at Haughton Thornley Medical Centres has won various awards since its inception 10 years ago.