Managing your healthcare can be a bit of a nuisance. There’s the struggle to remember when to order your repeat prescription. Then the frantic rush to get your request approved, just as the practice is closing on the day before you run out of your medicines. And that’s not to mention the telephone hold music while every man and his dog scrambles for the week’s scarce appointments.
But ‘Patient Access’, an app provided by Patient.co.uk in partnership with the NHS, seeks to remedy this. If your general practice has registered with the app, you can book GP and pharmacy appointments, order repeat prescriptions and view your medical record — all without making a phone call.
Unfortunately, you need to go into your GP surgery to complete the registration process if you want to access the app’s full range of features. This is a little annoying when you’re hoping to manage your health remotely from the get-go, but by confirming your identity in person, Patient Access keeps your records secure.
At the surgery, I was given a hand-out highlighting a few considerations to make before signing up to the service. There may be something in your record that you have forgotten and may find upsetting. Likewise, you may see a concerning test result on the app before discussing it with your doctor. And by their nature, patient records contain technical information that you may find confusing. It is also important to remember that you are responsible for keeping your data safe if you choose not to share it with others.
The app’s interface is simple and clean, and the home dashboard offers quick links to the app’s main features. It also has a symptom/condition search box, which provides useful health and care information, and a directory for NHS self-referral services in your area.
The navigation bar offers an ‘Appointments’ tab, which allows you to view past appointments, see upcoming ones and make new ones. A calendar showing practice staff’s availability for the next month or so aids this process. This booking feature conveys much more information than a receptionist could over the phone. You can edit and cancel appointments here too.
And it’s not just practice staff you can book. A range of local pharmacy services — including asthma, sexual health and vaccination, among many others — are also available through the app.
The ‘Medication’ tab lists your currently prescribed medications and repeat prescription requests, and allows you to make new requests. I quickly nominated my preferred pharmacy for collection by typing in a post code, and made a repeat prescription request with just a couple of taps.
Less than 24 hours later, I noticed that my request had been approved (a push notification would have been welcome), but it was not immediately clear when the prescription would be ready to collect from the pharmacy.
Unfortunately, I was unable to use the app’s medical record function; my practice receptionist warned it could take some time to approve access to my records. And I was disappointed to see that my practice has not enabled some of the app’s extra features, including sharing and exporting records, and instant messaging the GP.
Patient Access’s core functions are brilliant time-savers and stress-relievers for anyone whose free time does not align with their GP’s opening hours. And it’s warming to see the app doing well to promote local pharmacy services.
Other functions, however, are only as useful as your general practice is technologically advanced. But, as the NHS becomes more digitally joined up, I could see such an app becoming one I couldn’t live without.