Background: The NHS is moving towards electronic access to health records for patients from 2004 and needs to involve patients in the development process. The aim of the study was to explore the views of a large sample of patients about online access to EPRs and health information in primary care. Areas covered included: accuracy rights of access; security; confidentiality and smart cards.
Material/methods: The questionnaire was sent to 1050 patients selected at random from the practice list after stratification for age and sex.
Results: 66% of patients aged over 20 years old responded. Patients know they have the right to see their records although few have done so. Overall they feel the advantages of electronic health records outweigh the disadvantages. They have concerns about security, confidentiality, understanding their records, their accuracy and completeness. The patients recognised the potential benefits to their healthcare and relationships with health professionals. There was a majority view that parents / guardians and carers should have access to their dependants' records.
Conclusions: Patients need to be confident that access is limited to those who have the right to see the records. The majority were confident they would understand their records and about half were familiar with computer use. However these are major issues for older patients who will require assistance in order to benefit from accessing their EPRs. It is essential that patient involvement takes place at every stage of the development of EPRs and that their views are taken into account.