NHS patients in England are on track to book 10 million appointments and order more than 15 million prescriptions online in this financial year.
The estimates are based on Health and Social Care Information Centre figures for the first six months of 2015-2016, which shows that patients used online services offered by their GP practice to order medication 7.6 million times and to book or rearrange appointments just over 5 million times.
The services are part of NHS England’s Patient Online programme, which intends to give every citizen online access to their full medical record by 2018.
Earlier this year NHS England announced that it had hit its April 2015 target of having 97% of GP practices in England set up to offer patients online access to a summary of their record, while 98.2% had enabled online booking and cancelling of appointments and 96.5% had enabled the online repeat prescription service.
The next big goal is to allow all patients in England online access to detailed coded information, including immunisation records and test results, from their GP record from March 2016.
Numerous practices already offer this service, with the HSCIC figures revealing that so far this year patients have viewed their test results 270,000 times and viewed letters about their care 260,000 times.
Speaking at yesterday’s 'Sustainable healthcare – turning concepts into reality for individuals and the NHS' conference in London, NHS England’s director of digital technology Beverley Bryant said that putting technology in the hands of patients was one of NHS England's main jobs to use technology to create a healthcare service that is sustainable for the future.
“It’s not too hard for the public to grasp the idea that they shouldn’t need to have to turn up, knock on the window and ask for a repeat prescription. If people want to do this online, we should allow it.”
She added that giving patients access to a more detailed record will “change the relationship between the GP and patient”.
“We mustn’t drive these digital services in isolation. Patients having access to records needs to be done in conjunction with their GP.”
This programme also shouldn’t alienate people who don’t, can’t or won’t use online technologies, said Bryant, who said NHS England is working with the Tinder Foundation on a digital participation scheme.