New technology allowing patients to view their medical records online could also prove a life-saver, doctors say.
ManageMyHealth software was trialled by Wellington GP Richard Medlicott, and allows people access to information traditionally for doctors' and nurses' eyes only.
Patients can see what medications they are taking, past prescriptions, lab results, allergies and immunisations via an online portal similar to internet banking.
Notes by GPs and practice nurses are also provided.
About 400 patients at Medlicott's Island Bay Medical Centre in Wellington have signed up and embraced the technology, with many booking appointments online and also emailing medical queries.
"It's a different way of doing medicine, it's not something you enter into lightly," Medlicott said.
Medlicott said security measures were on a par with those used by banks, but relied on people keeping their password secret.
Patient information is encrypted and directly uploaded on to a database held in New Zealand. This means it can't be intercepted.
ManageMyHealth is also being used as a platform for medical records to be shared with hospitals and after-hours accident clinics to save time, and potentially lives.
Community pharmacies and paramedics are next in line to be given access to patient profiles as part of a project called Shared Care Record.
It will close the information gap between primary and secondary care and will allow hospital doctors to start people on medication earlier, instead of having to call their GP or community pharmacist, Capital & Coast District Health Board executive director clinical and corporate support Peter Hicks said.
Capital & Coast will be the latest area to go live with the Shared Care Record project, which was launched in Wairarapa last year.
Other areas such as the West Coast, Canterbury, parts of Auckland and Midlands (the North Island between Wellington and Auckland) are working on similar IT projects rather than a nationwide plan, as most DHBs treat people from their catchment.
Primary health organisation Compass Health led the Shared Care Record Project for the three lower North Island DHBs.
Health and Disability and Privacy commissioners were involved in the development to ensure patient privacy would not be compromised, Compass's director of research and tech innovation Jayden MacRae said.
"Sometimes what people are really fearful of is that information will be used for statistical purposes and other things. This is only for direct clinical care, there will be no data mining."
Notes by doctors and nurses will not be visible to hospital practitioners and sensitive information - such as an abortion - can be removed in conjunction with the GP.
Finally, verbal consent is sought from the patient, if possible, when they arrive in the emergency department, outpatient clinic or ward.
The move to share patient information comes as the Government aims to get more people using its online services. By 2017 it wants 70 per cent of the most common transactions with Government to be done digitally.
Figures released last week show 38.6 per cent of Kiwis used secure online Government services between October and December, including the new online adult passport renewal service which has processed 36,000 since it launched in November.
WHAT IS MANAGEMYHEALTH?
Allows patients to access their medical record, including lab results and prescriptions, via the internet.
Gives GPs the opportunity to have email contact with patients and also directly upload lab results with a message explaining what they mean instead of having to phone.
If your practice offers it you will need to provide an email address and proof of identity.
You will be given an activation code and instructions to complete the online registration.
- Sunday Star Times