Patients will be able to access their own health records electronically and book appointments with GPs online by 2015, the Department of Health has said in long-awaited Health Information Strategy.
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The department has also committed to patients being able to renew prescriptions online and being able to communicate with their GPs electronically.
Giles Wilmore, senior responsible owner of the strategy, said this timeframe should enable GPs to upgrade systems where necessary. The department is working with the Royal College of GPs to support practices in the move.
Speaking to Computer Weekly he said: “The health service has not moved as fast other parts of public life in providing online services. This does happen in some places and where it does makes people are more proactive in managing their own healthcare. It’s more efficient and costs less to do e-consultation rather than face-to-face – where that isn’t necessary.”
Around 50% of GP practices already have the technological capability to allow patients to access their own records under the widely-used EMIS software, but fewer than 2% are offering that service, said Wilmore.
“This isn’t a technology challenge but a cultural one in the working practices of GPs and also the public. People accept online banking as a [normal service] but if they want to see a GP they have to phone up and can’t book online. We ought to be better at demanding a more responsive service and GPs need to be more consumer focused in the service they offer,” he said.