EMIS is re-launching EMIS Access through patient.co.uk, with an "easy to use" interface for patients who will also be able to log-in without their practice-issued password.

Group chief executive Sean Riddell spoke at the iLinks event in Liverpool last week about work to make the patient access portal more attractive to both GPs and patients.

The news follows a firm commitment in the NHS information strategy, released last week, that all GPs should be offering patients online access to transactional services and their medical record by 2015.

Patients will be able to see which practices offer online access to records by 2013 on the NHS Choices website.

Riddell said a survey of GPs and patients revealed high support for the ability to book appointments and order repeat prescriptions online.

However, when asked whether they would like patient access to the medical record online, 78% of patients said ‘yes’ but only 40% of GPs did.

EMIS practices had been able to offer transactional online services to patients for years via EMIS Access, but Riddell said this had not taken off because the site was “a bit clunky.”

The redesign – due to go live in July – means patients will be able to register for online services via patient.co.uk.

If they have forgotten their password, they can enter their personal details to get restricted access to the site and book an appointment.

When they arrive at the surgery, the receptionist will get an alert to check their identity and allow full access.

Riddell said one of the issues with giving patients online accounts was that they often forgot their passwords and would ring the surgery to check, creating a hassle for receptionists.

He said the company was also launching follow-up booking functionality for patients to use on its welcome terminals in practices.

“The more we can get patients to do things by themselves, the more it saves the profession,” he told the iLinks audience.

“I cannot understand why every practice has not turned on a free service to allow appointment booking online,” he said.

“What they (GPs) will find is that it saves time and money for them and there are huge benefits for patients.”

EMIS is working on an app – to be released this year – for the patient access service, which will allow people to book appointments and order prescriptions on their smart phone.

Those with access to their medical records will be able use an app to see basic medical information such as their latest blood pressure reading.

“If you have it on your phone you can share it with anyone you want to,” explained Riddell.

Dr Shaun O’Hanlon, clinical development director for EMIS, said that while offering appointment booking and repeat prescriptions services are relatively low risk for GPs, providing access to medical records is a “conceptual leap."

“It’s opening up what’s been historically your record as a GP, to whose record it actually is, whichis the patient,” he explained.

O’Hanlon believed that quality and outcome framework points would ultimately be linked to offering patients online access.

EMIS managing director Neil Laycock said the integration with patient.co.uk means that information about drugs or conditions can be linked to data patients see about themselves online.

He said the company had invested heavily in the usability of the new site as it believes patient access will become mass market.