The impact of patient record access on appointments and telephone calls in two English general practices: a population based study
London Journal of Primary Care 2014;6:xx–xx # 2014 Royal College of General Practitioners
Background Government policy expects all patients who wish to have online record access (RA) by 2015. We currently have no knowledge of the impact of patient record access on practice workload.
Setting Two urban general practices in Manchester. Question What is the impact of patient RA on telephone calls and appointments in UK general practice?
Method We asked patients in two urban general practices who used RA whether it had increased or decreased their use of the practice over the previous year. Using practice data, we calculated the change in appointments, telephone calls and staff cost. We also estimated the reduction in environmental costs and patient time.
Results An average of 187 clinical appointments (of which 87 were with doctors and 45 with nurses) and 290 telephone calls were saved. If 30% of patients used RA at least twice a year, these figures suggest that a 10 000-patient practice would save 4747 appointments and 8020 telephone calls per year. Assuming a consultation rate of 5.3% annually, that equates to a release of about 11% of appointments per year, with significant resource savings for patients and the environment.
Discussion This is the first such study in the UK. It shows similar results to a study in the USA. We discuss the study limitations, including the issue of patient recall, nature of the practices studied and nature of early adopter patients. Strengths include combining national data, practice data and local reflection. We are confident that the savings observed are the result of RA rather than other factors. We suggest that RA can be part of continuous practice improvement, given its benefits and the support it offers for patient confidence, self-care and shared decision-making.
HIFA profile: Richard Fitton is a retired family doctor - GP, British Medical Association. Professional interests: Health literacy, patient partnership of trust and implementation of healthcare with professionals, family and public involvement in the prevention of modern lifestyle diseases, patients using access to professional records to overcome confidentiality barriers to care, patients as part of the policing of the use of their patient data
Email address: richardpeterfitton7 AT gmail.com