Michael CrossEditorWednesday 13 August 2014

Overwhelming support for joined-up health records

An overwhelming majority of the British public - 85% - want any healthcare professional treating them to have secure electronic access to data from their GP's record, according to new research for an IT supplier.

 According to the YouGov poll, a majority of these believe this would:
·      Improve patient care (77%)
·      Reduce avoidable treatment errors (69%)
·      Save patients the frustration of having to repeat information to professionals other than their GP (67%)

The public is shocked that A&E doctors in particular do not have automatic access to information on long-term conditions, medication history or allergies, and fear it could lead to mistakes in treatment.

The poll of 2,343 adults for EMIS Group has revealed that over half the population (58%) are unaware that hospital doctors are often unable to electronically access information from a patient's GP medical record. Most A&E doctors either have to treat without it, or phone the GP to ask for information to be faxed through.

Almost two thirds of people (61%) are worried that failing to share vital information about their health with A&E doctors could result in treatment delays or potentially life-threatening medical errors, the poll found.

Nearly one in three people are shocked (30%) that it isn't common practice for patient information to be shared electronically, while 40% are annoyed that A&E doctors may not have all the facts at their fingertips.

The findings come as Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt renewed calls for patient records to be shared across the entire health and social care system.

Chris Spencer, chief executive of EMIS Group - which claims to look after the records of 40 million patients in the UK - said: "This survey confirms what we knew anecdotally to be true - that the vast majority of patients want clinicians to have access to their medical records at the point of care, and assume this happens as a matter of course."

However "The reality is of course more complicated.  Despite efforts to increase use of the Summary Care Record, and wider initiatives by forward-thinking system suppliers and local healthcare providers, data-sharing between clinicians is far from routine. Most A&E doctors are still in the position of having to phone the GP or ask for records to be faxed over, and data-sharing beyond urgent care is still under-developed."