English doctors most supportive of patients accessing health records

Research shows widespread support for online access to electronic records for patients

Doctors in England are among the most supportive of patients being given online access to their medical records

Doctors in England are leading efforts to give patients full online access to their medical records, according to a new survey by Accenture.

The findings show that 94% of English doctors believe patients should have at least some access to their electronic health record, in line with the Government’s recent goal to provide everyone with access to the information held about them by March 2015.

However, while medics in this country showed the highest level of support for full access, there are still a large number who want to see restrictions to access arrangements.

Electronic health records are better for patients and better for medical staff. They help improve patient care quality and capture patient feedback, as recommended in the Francis Report

Only a third of doctors in England (34%) believe a patient should see everything held about them, with 60% supporting some limitations and 6% against access completely.

This compares favourably to the views of doctors from other countries covered by the research - Australia, Canada, Germany, France, Singapore, Spain and the US – who were less supportive of full patient access. On average, 24% of doctors around the world believe patients should have full access, 61% they should be given limited access and 14% are against the plan completely.

In terms of the type of information shared, the majority of doctors in England believe patients should be able to update some or all of the standard information in their health records, including demographics, family medical history, medications and allergies. Additionally, the majority of doctors believe patients should even be able to add such clinical updates to their records as new symptoms or self-measured metrics such as blood pressure and glucose levels. These findings were consistent with global averages across all countries included in the survey.

Yet, despite their desire for patient participation in updating electronic health records, and the belief shared by nearly half of doctors (49%) that giving patients access is critical to providing effective care, many electronic services are still not available to patients, with only 11% of respondents citing that patients currently have online access to their medical information.

We believe the benefits outweigh the risks in allowing patients open access to their health records

The belief that access is critical to care is broadly consistent globally (41%) while online access to medical information is more prevalent in most other countries, rising to nearly a third in the US and Singapore (30% each) with a global average of 19%.

Commenting on the survey findings, Jim Burke, managing director of Accenture’s health business in the UK, said: “Electronic health records are better for patients and better for medical staff. They help improve patient care quality and capture patient feedback, as recommended in the Francis Report.

“We believe the benefits outweigh the risks in allowing patients open access to their health records. There is a short-term positive impact for the patient as real-time information becomes readily available to medical staff and, in the long term, such initiatives can save billions for an already stretched NHS, ultimately allowing for a more effective allocation of resources to meet the challenges of a growing and ageing population.”

The survey was conducted by Harris Interactive and quizzed 3,700 doctors around the world. A full report on the findings will be released next month.

Companies