Patients in the driving seat: personal health records and person-centred care

The RCP's Health Informatics Unit (HIU) examines what person-centred care means in an increasingly digital world.

Person-centred care

Wouldn’t everybody like to receive care that meets their needs as individuals, and equips them to support their own treatment? Despite being widely discussed and debated, however, it can be hard to define exactly what is meant by 'person-centred care'.

To aid our understanding of the subject, the Health Foundation provides a framework with four central principles:

  1. affording people dignity, compassion and respect
  2. offering coordinated care, support or treatment
  3. offering personalised care, support or treatment
  4. supporting people to recognise and develop their own strengths and abilities to enable them to live an independent and fulfilling life.

The fourth point strikes a particular chord: by recognising patients as experts in their own care, it acknowledges the invaluable relationship between medical teams and individuals in the management of care.

Patient health records

One tool that is vital to empowering patients in self-led care programmes is patients' access to their own records. This is a subject that we, the HIU, have spoken about extensively, and firmly believe will help facilitate the transition to true person-centred care.

The NHS England Patient Online programme also continues to support GP practices in the promotion of online services to patients, with many now offering online appointment booking, ordering of repeat prescriptions, and access to the summary care record.

At a time when the NHS is constantly under pressure to do more with less, it is absolutely essential that these technologies are embraced and imbedded to provide a sustainable, modern, person-centred health service.

Having instant, online access to personal records is only a starting point in informing and enabling people to take control of their own health and wellbeing. Patient access also shares information from a care provider’s perspective, but, to really maximise the potential of person-centred care, other digital tools are also imperative.

For example, personal health records (PHRs) allow individuals to capture and monitor their own healthcare data, and support two-way communication with care teams. These PHRs also enable individuals to access support networks, find out more about their condition, and learn of different options for managing and improving health and wellbeing.

At a time when the NHS is constantly under pressure to do more with less, it is absolutely essential that these technologies are embraced and imbedded to provide a sustainable, modern, person-centred health service.

Looking to the future – understanding patient needs

In order to better understand the needs of service users in relation to PHRs, the RCP is leading a new piece of work focusing very clearly on understanding the needs of PHR service users. This project will inform NHS England’s upcoming PHR strategy, ensuring that these tools better meet the needs of those who use them.

If you are interested in hearing more about the work of the Health Informatics Unit, please join our register.

You can also find out more about what person-centred care means in practice, to both clinicians and service users, in the current edition of Future Hospital Journal.