New Zealand’s Health Ministry encourages GPs to give patients access to medical notes

In New Zealand, fourteen percent of GP practices with a patient portal are offering patients online access to their medical notes.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Health show that 610 practices out of 970 across the country offer a patient portal. Of those, 86 practices offer Open Notes, up from just 50 in the first quarter of 2017–2018.

Ministry of Health chief medical officer Andrew Simpson says the Ministry encourages general practices to give patients access to their clinical notes.

“Having access to their health information empowers people to be more involved in their healthcare,” he said.

“On a practical level portals can help them understand their health condition better, and remind them of their care plan and their medications.”

The Ministry figures show that four PHOs have all practices offering a portal and around 800,000 people are registered with a patient portal across the country. Twenty-one practices now also offer video-conference consults.

“Primary health organisations are starting to see that patient portals are enabling practices to remain sustainable by doing more consultations online, leaving face-to-face consultations for those people who really needed them,” said Simpson.

Bryan MacLeod is GP owner of a rural practice, the Coromandel Family Health Centre, and has been offering patients online access to their medical notes for about five years.

MacLeod believes that by giving patients access to their medical notes, they are more informed about their care and can share this information with family members or other health professionals if they wish.

“The more open we are about what we do and share information that belongs to the patient the better,” he said. “I haven’t seen a downside to it.”

MacLeod is keen to start offering video consults and is considering having a separate room set up at the practice for this purpose, but believes the greatest value will be in connecting patients from his practice with tertiary care services.

Broadcaster Toni Street has used a patient portal for the past three years and finds it hugely helpful in managing her autoimmune disease. She has also a different portal page for each of her three children.

“I noticed about six months ago that I could read the [medical] notes and thought that’s really great because it means you have got a lot of accountability on the doctor’s part as well,” she said.

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