GPs are going above and beyond the minimum IT requirements set out in the GP contract for England for online patient records access.
A quarter* of EMIS Web practices in England that have already switched on online summary view access for patients ahead of the deadline, have also enabled optional Patient Access features such as access to test results, documents (e.g. discharge letters), immunisations and consultation history.
By 31 March all GP practices in England have to offer patients the ability to view a summary of their medical record online (medications, allergies and adverse reactions).
In total, more than three quarters of GP practices using EMIS Web in England now offer patients the ability to view a summary of their medical record (medications, allergies and adverse reactions), as well as book appointments and order prescriptions online.
Demand from patients for online services and medical record viewing has also increased dramatically. In January 2015, there were 193,013 medical record page views by patients through Patient Access - compared to just 221 in January 2014.
Dr Sharma's practice at Wolverhampton's Bilston Health Centre, was an early adopter of online access. Besides the basics, patients there are already able to view test results and immunisations.
Partner Dr Anant Sharma believes the future of general practice lies with greater patient empowerment, and that GPs should embrace the opportunity to make patients partners in their own healthcare.
He said: "We've had no problems at all since providing patients with online access to their records - in fact we plan to enable even more modules.
"We had our concerns at first, our main fear being that it would lead to patients misinterpreting information and possibly disputing details; scenarios that would ultimately end up putting more demands on practice time and resources. But this hasn't been the case - it's been a very positive move.
"Based on our experiences here and looking at what the NHS needs to survive, my view is that online records access engages patients in their own healthcare which is better for them, better for us and better for their journey through our health system."
Ben Foster, Operations Director for Patient Services at EMIS, believes the GP contract has been a prompt for many practices to look at online patient services and records access more closely and that this has had a positive impact.
He said: "We found that many GPs held off enabling access to online records as they didn't realise that they could still control key aspects. For example, GPs can switch on the modules they want patients to have access to, but also turn off access to functions such as free text and only show coded entries.
"GPs can also control access at an individual level. This might be beneficial where access to test results or documents could help certain patients with long term medical conditions, in terms of managing their health, but not necessarily others."
In the last two months, the number of registered Patient Access users has increased by 800,000 to 2.8 million. With the GP contract also requiring that practices actively promote services, it is envisaged that this figure will rise significantly in the coming months.
For Patients: http://patient.info/patient-access
*All statistical data regarding EMIS Web practices, unless otherwise stated, true at 20.03.2015