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I’m wondering what records you keep personally, or can access online, to help you keep track of your life and I’m especially thinking about personal health?
Keeping track of my appointments, medications, symptoms
As some of you know my health took a downturn in my mid 40s and since then I have been managing a few Long Term Conditions. As I became a more experienced patient I realised that no one NHS organization had the full record of my health history and so I began to keep a simple record on my laptop that detailed dates of appointments, which clinician I’d seen, what had been said (that I could remember) and if there was any follow-up or monitoring to do.
I did this just for my own peace of mind as I was always asked what medication I was taking, what operations/procedures/blood tests/results I’d had and when, and what my current symptoms were etc.
As my history became more complex I used my own record as an aide memoire for me to take with me to appointments and it also came in useful as a briefing sheet for any new consultants/clinicians I met.
Then I heard that nationally the NHS was going to give patients access to the records that were kept by GPs and I thought great that will be an enormous help.
Online access to shopping and banking
As I have become physically disabled with arthritic and spinal problems I have come to use online services for many aspects of my life including shopping and banking. I started cautiously with banking online over 15 years ago and now the only thing I can’t do online is take money out or pay in cheques!
I’m not the only one as in 2015 the people who use internet banking was around 56% according to the Office for National Statistics.
And before anyone says it’s too much for the more advanced in age the British Banking Association(BBA) reported in the Way We Bank Now that there are millions of “Silver Surfers” using mobile and internet banking with nearly 2.3 million people aged between 70 and over 100 years old using internet banking. The study also shows that more than 450,000 customers over 60 are harnessing banking apps on smart phones, iPads and other tablets.
Now the banking industry made these changes so that their customers could more easily use their banking services and keep track of their finances.
There is no doubt that internet use has changed the way many people manage different aspects of their lives. In 2015 the Office for National Statistics said that the internet was accessed every day, or almost every day by 78% of people in Great Britain with online shopping and use of services being the most popular of their use. And that 86% of households in Great Britain had internet access.
So back to health.
You can imagine how delighted I was to hear about the National NHS Patient Online programme and I quickly signed up for the facility to order my monthly repeat prescriptions online which saved me monthly trips to the GP surgery and saved receptionist time receiving paper requests and finding my prescription scripts for me.
From the 31st March 2016 all GP practices across England should be offering online services to their patients which include, ordering repeat prescriptions, booking appointments online, access to summary information (immunisations, allergies, medication) test results and lastly access to detailed coded information held in patients’ records.
This seemed to me to be really good news for people and especially for those, like me, with Long Term Conditions who want to be active in self managing their life whenever possible and if support is needed can do this in partnership with healthcare professionals.
I must confess that I was a bit disappointed when I did get finally get access to the coded information in my records, a few weeks ago, as I didn’t get my past history so I will only have access to future events. Thankfully I still have my own record to rely on and hope that future generations will get this straight away so they will have a chronological record to use.
Who knows about this and how do you get access?
This seems to be a problem in some places where not many patients are aware that online services are available or what this could mean to them personally. If they do know people report that it can be difficult to find out how to do this at their own surgery, as information doesn’t appear to be always readily, or easily, available.
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions for patients from NHS England.
Equally it seems that some GP practices do not yet see the potential of how online services could free up time for them and more importantly enable their patients to be more informed and self-managing partners.
Frequently Asked Questions for GP practices
There has been a lot of publicity nationally in England from the Patient online team and support is available for practices where there are local needs but this isn’t enough as there still appears to be a huge gap between what is ‘technically’ available and what is promoted to patients and made easily available at practice level.
For me personally I can only see benefits and a friend of mine Ingrid Brindle has built up her knowledge over a few years of having full access to her records at the forward thinking Haughton Thornley Medical Centre in Hyde (led by Dr Amir Hannan) Greater Manchester where she is Chair of the Patient Participation Group. Listen to Ingrid talking about her experiences at The Kings Fund in 2014.
If you’re still not sure and want to know more you can watch, and listen to, these short case studies snapshots, which include different views from GPs, practice managers, receptionists and more patients. You can hear again from Ingrid and just below Ingrid is another colleague of mine Trevor Fossey who talks about how useful it is to him and his wife, who he cares for, to have online access to their records.
For me having online access to my records, test results, medications, and prescription ordering isn’t really about gadgets or Information Technology (IT).
It’s about me being responsible and empowered in being as informed as I can be to make decisions about my most valuable asset, my health.