Joint with The Richmond Group, we're publishing three blogs on the benefits of enabling people to access their health records. In the first of the series, Ingrid Brindle, Chair of Haughton Thornley Patient Participation Group, talks about how accessing her GP records has helped her and her doctors to manage her health better.

I thought it may be useful to share how having online access to my GP records has changed how I manage my health since 2006. In our practice (Haughton Thornley Medical Centres) we have 59% of our patients signed up to full access including over half our Bangladeshi patients. Nationwide the picture is less than 1%.

Joining up my care and managing my health

I have ankylosing spondylitis with associated iritis and now have persistent atrial flutter. I take immunosuppressants, steroids, anti coagulants and heart regulating drugs, so I have complex issues.

Communication between my HCPs is often very poor so I can use my information to fill in the gaps and keep everyone up to date.

I can now manage a lot of my health issues without needing to contact the practice.

Ordering repeat prescriptions is very simple. A few key presses and the practice sends the script to the pharmacy who deliver.

I can look at my consultation history to remind myself of exactly what was said so I can make sure I've remembered everything properly. I know the information in my records is correct as I have checked.

The information is easily accessible if I need dates for anything like travel insurance, medical history forms, to know when my vaccinations are due or to answer questions in a clinic.

Keeping track of tests

I have regular blood tests to monitor my medications. Checking online is an easy routine. The results are easy to understand with a link to “Labtests online” for further clarification. Some of my values come back as “abnormal” but I know that's normal for me. I know that my doctor is monitoring the results and will let me know if we need to do anything. I can discuss the test results with the clinicians in the hospital departments who are involved in my prescribing so they have no need to repeat the tests.

If I was waiting for some new results which may be upsetting or difficult to deal with on my own then I don't have to look. I can wait until I can discuss it with the support of the doctor. I am involved with six consultants at the same hospital but most of the time they don't communicate with each other. As I have access to all my consultant letters I can check I understand everything and share the information with other health professionals where required.

Getting the help I need, when I need it

Having access to my GP records online, home or abroad, 24/7, gives me enormous confidence. How Fantastic!

If I am ill and unable to speak for myself, then my partner has the passwords. I also have information in my wallet and also in my phone under “Ice Health”. I can access all my information using my mobile phone. Some patients share their information with family members or carers for support. Parents can monitor the health of their children.

Last year we were in France and my heart became unstable. I knew I was going to have to go to hospital the next day. I went online and printed out the last letters from the cardiologist. I then got them translated into French and took them to the hospital who then had all the information they needed. I’ve also done a pre-op interview for a procedure in a London hospital by telephone from Manchester.

Support from my GP practice

At our practice there is a strong partnership of trust. I trust my doctors to give me the best care that they can and they trust me to use information wisely to ensure the best outcomes for my health. I want to understand the implications of any treatment and fully participate in decisions about the way forward. Good quality information and being listened to and trusted enables me to do that.

It's difficult to evaluate all the times I haven’t needed to contact the practice but I know from current statistics that it gives more time for the practice to provide for patients who need a different kind of support. 

In the future

What I would like is for all my information from hospitals, clinics and other agencies to be available, “joined up” and accessible so that myself and other people involved in my care have all the information they need to keep me safe and make the best decisions.

No wonder there are people on trollies in A&E when they are starting from scratch! Why can’t they access my GP information?

I would like an opportunity to be able to contribute to my records, to add information, to present a more holistic picture.

I think that patients would be more likely to sign up to view records if it was explained what can be done with the facility. Asking “Would you like to see your records?” is no use. Asking “Would you like to be able to read what the doctor has said about your consultation?” is a different matter.

We need to publicise the benefits in the popular press, health magazines, women’s magazines and even run a story line in a popular soap! We also need to convince some health care professionals of the massive benefits that can accrue from allowing patients to fully participate in their care!