Airing both sides of the doctor–patient partnership
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Retired headteacher Ingrid Brindle, 70, has accessed her GP records at her medical centre in Hyde since 2006.
‘It’s hard to explain how empowering it is having control of my information. I have an auto-immune disease affecting my joints and spine as well as my heart and eyes. I’m currently seeing seven different consultants at the same hospital.
‘My consultants don’t always communicate with me or each other, so having immediate access to my own information, wherever I am, means that I hold the whole thing together. I can supply blood test results and prevent re-testing by other departments. The hospital still uses paper records. Once, a consultant discovered that information he needed was missing from the hospital records. Luckily, I could get it for him by accessing my GP records on my mobile phone! Before I had online access, needing to ask for information all the time was both inconvenient and disempowering.
‘Patients are the biggest under-used resource that the NHS has – and we are FREE!’
Dr Amir Hannan, along with his partners, decided eight years ago to enable his patients at the Haughton Thornley Medical Centres to access their GP records online. Well over 3,000 patients can now do this.
‘When I first started, I was convinced that the partnership of trust that exists between patients and clinicians would help us to share information safely, but that there may be some patients who come to harm. Eight years later, I’m still waiting for my first problem. That is because I was incredibly pedantic about making certain, as a data controller, that the patient could handle their personal information in their own time and that the support could be provided to help them understand it.
‘Thirty-eight per cent of our patients with asthma are doing this; so are 57 per cent of our patients with depression and anxiety. This is about parity of esteem. The clinician is an expert in health care, but the patient is an expert too. They are an expert in their symptoms, in how it is affecting their family, their work and so on. We also have a third expert in the room – the computer.
‘We have to improve the level of understanding in the community so that people can self-care more, and know what other services and community assets there are to support their needs. What is required now is focused funding to make it happen.’