A closer look at the NHS's new health information access
In April 2023, the NHS announced significant changes to the GP contract for 2023/24. These changes were announced via legislation in April 2023, and are set to revolutionise the way patients access their medical records. By 31 October 2023, patient records need to be made available to all patients, unless they have individually opted out or specific exceptions apply.
This marks a pivotal moment for healthcare in the UK, as it streamlines access to vital electronic patient records, empowering patients as well as enhancing communication between healthcare providers and their patients. Below Accuro discuss the benefits, and necessary steps, for an effective rollout of patient access to medical records.
Patient access to medical records: a patient-centric approach
The core change in the GP contract is the introduction of access to patient records. This initiative aims to facilitate patient access to medical records online without the need to contact their GP practice.
Already, 1400 practices have adopted this approach, benefiting 6.5 million patients. NHS England will continue to support practices in expanding this service to all their patients.
Benefits for patients: patient records
Enhanced patient health knowledge and giving patients more access to their own NHS records has the potential to empower both patients and their caregivers. This empowerment often results in greater knowledge and improved health literacy. Studies have demonstrated that individuals who have access to their own patient records tend to exhibit increased compliance with prescribed treatment regimens. They also tend to possess a better grasp of their medical conditions, which can lead to improved self-care practices and heightened safety awareness. Moreover, patients can conveniently review current and pertinent health information before or after their consultations, offering them access to valuable insights at any time.
Benefits for staff: electronic patient record
In the initial phase there may be a surge in new enquiries. However, the long-term projection is that enhanced record access will lead to a reduction in the administrative workload for practice staff. This reduction will manifest in fewer patient phone calls, emails, and in-person visits.
While GPs will need to assess the potential impact of each patient record entry and occasionally customise or restrict access for specific individuals in exceptional cases, the anticipated outcome is that the enduring advantages, such as improved communication and data quality, will far outweigh any initial increase in workload.
Preparing for the change
Before enabling prospective record access, GP practices are encouraged to follow a set of guidelines to ensure a smooth transition.
Ensure your patient records are up-to-date
Using an outsourced transcription service can play a pivotal role in facilitating the NHS’s transition towards enabling patient access to medical records. As the healthcare landscape evolves to embrace greater patient empowerment and information accessibility, the demand for accurate and timely medical documentation becomes increasingly critical.
Here’s how outsourcing transcription services can align with and support efficient NHS patient records:
- Clear any backlogs – Some GP practices have large dictation backlogs; ensure you’ve cleared this before 31 October to ensure your records are up-to-date.
- Quicker access for patients – 24-hour turnaround on transcription.
- Efficient record creation – Accuro integrates with leading medical dictation systems such as Lexacom.
- Improved data quality – Over 1000 NHS-trained secretaries working around the clock to type your dictation.
- Reduction in administration workload – your admin team can focus on patients, not typing.
Policies and processes:
The NHS digital checklist provides a full set of information on which policies and processes need to be updated before the deadline, and can be found by clicking here. For a brief overview, your practice should:
- Review new and current policies.
- Identify at risk patients.
- Create a young patient plan.
- Plan for amendments to patient records.
- Assess information accuracy.
- Review learnings from other practices.
Comprehensive training should be provided to all staff, including locums, on redaction, identifying at-risk patients, and writing notes suitable for patient view. It is worthwhile to appoint an online services champion/lead to ensure staff are well-informed about the practice’s processes and potential patient queries. More information can be found on FutureNHS.
Encourage staff to watch webinars and how-to videos covering various topics related to this transition. Ensure that the registration process of new patients identifies potentially ‘at risk’ patients and that patients are aware of their ability to access their patient record.
Set up a test patient once you’ve designed your implementation – this can then be used to test future changes and used as a training device.
Promoting prospective access to your patients
One crucial aspect of implementing prospective access to health records is actively promoting and offering this service to your patients even before your clinical system undergoes the upgrades to allow patient access to medical records.
How do we promote changes to our GP practice?
To ensure that your patients are aware and prepared for this transformative change, consider implementing the following promotional strategies:
- Use your practice’s website and social media channels to advertise patient access to medical records.
- Place posters in your practice’s waiting areas, engaging your patients.
- Send SMS text messages to your patients, providing them with information and updates about the upcoming changes.
- Collaborate with patient participation groups in your area. Seek their feedback on the changes and inform them about how this new access will benefit patients.
- Identify specific patient groups, such as those with long-term conditions, who may particularly benefit from early access to their records.
- Ensure that information about online account registration is included in new-patient registration packs.
- Update your practice’s answerphone message to include information about prospective access.
- Consider including information about prospective access on repeat prescription forms.
Where can we find content to promote this change?
When advertising the changes to allow patients access to their GP health records, you can start by using the materials produced by the NHS found here.
For materials related to the NHS app itself, as well as specific resources to inform patients about the NHS app, please refer to the new NHS app toolkit pages. For inquiries related to the Citizen Access Programme, you can reach out to email@example.com for further assistance.
Patient access to medical records: conclusion
The NHS’s new health information access initiative represents a significant step forward in patient empowerment and healthcare communication. By ensuring that patients can access their health records easily, the NHS is fostering a more informed and engaged patient population.
As the 31 October deadline approaches, practices are urged to embrace these changes to benefit both patients and healthcare providers alike.
For more information on Accuro’s medical transcription service, and how you can remove your backlogs and have a head start by 31 October, get in touch with Accuro today.