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Let patients access their medical records on phones and tablets

If community pharmacies are to offer a safe, efficient service without being overwhelmed, easy access to patients’ medical records is a must, insists Shanel Raichura...

 

It’s now seven years since the Royal Pharmaceutical Society launched its campaign for read-write access to patients’ medical records and less than a year since the three main pharmacy bodies released a joint manifesto to continue the lobbying effort.

Yet despite some pockets of good practice, most community pharmacists still struggle to access medical information when checking prescriptions or offering enhanced services. They rely on the limited detail held in the Summary Care Record or phoning hard-pressed GP surgeries.

Read-write access to the patient record relies on robust data-sharing agreements between pharmacists and GPs – and we know that such agreements rely on good relationships between the professions. Yet as we enter this second wave of coronavirus, clinical information sharing will become more important than ever.

Back in March during the first wave, community pharmacy really stepped up to the plate, helping more new patients and dealing with more prescriptions than ever before. I have no doubt it will do so this time round. 

But if we are to offer a safe, efficient service without being overwhelmed, easy access to patients’ medical records is a must.

NHS England research shows that 5 per cent of unplanned hospital admissions are due to drug-related errors; other research estimates that 50 per cent of these are avoidable through better medicines management. Community pharmacists are in the ideal position to spot many of them but they cannot do it without the full picture.

I believe now is the time for patients to take matters into their own hands – literally – by holding a copy of their own medical record on their phone or tablet. They should be able to choose who to share it with – consent would be implicit at the point of care. This is already the norm outside healthcare.  Every day, as consumers, we choose whether or not to share our data with all sorts of people.

The good news is that the technology to share our medical information already exists via apps such as Patient Access, which millions of people use to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions and access their GP record medication and allergies. From April 2020, GPs were required to extend access to the full medical record for all patients.

The app-held record could be enriched with information from the pharmacy’s PMR, including for example, notifications of enhanced services, a record of OTC drugs purchased and a real-time view of dispensed and collected prescriptions.

We all know how serious OTC interactions with prescribed drugs can be, for example, St John’s Wort with Warfarin. Pharmacists could help minimise such dangerous interactions.

The benefits of this are wider of course. When a patient is admitted to hospital, meds information in their hand-held medical record could be used for reconciliation purposes. On discharge, the community pharmacist could review their regime.

As we head into an uncertain winter, health professionals will have to work together as never before in the fight to bring us safely through Covid-19. The information to help them could be at their patients’ fingertips.

 

Shanel Raichura is senior clinical director pharmacy at EMIS and a practising community pharmacist.




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