JAMIA Outlines Factors Supporting, Hindering Patient Access to EHRs

A new perspective piece published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association details some of the factors supporting and hindering efforts to give patients greater access to their electronic health record data, InformationWeek reports.

Researchers from University of Toronto wrote the perspective article, which focuses on the U.S. health care system.

Arguments for Greater Access

According to the perspective piece, previous studies indicate that sharing data with patients can help:

  • Boost efficiency;
  • Improve health care quality;
  • Increase patient satisfaction; and
  • Reduce health care costs.

The authors note that expanding patient access to EHR data could help ensure that patients can obtain their personal health information in a timely manner.

Barriers to Expanding Access

However, the perspective article notes that some stakeholders are concerned that the information contained in an EHR might confuse patients and make them jump to incorrect conclusions.

In addition, doctors might not want patients to see some information that they record in an EHR, such as whether the patient is at risk of suicide.

Other barriers hindering greater patient access to EHR data include:

  • A lack of understanding about the privacy implications of sharing EHR data;
  • Concerns about liability issues related to EHR data sharing;
  • Disagreement about whether patients or health care providers control EHR data; and
  • The costs involved in adding patient access features to existing EHR systems.

Looking Forward

The authors conclude that withholding EHR data from patients no longer is a feasible option.

They write that the barriers to expanding access to EHR data "should not block [patient] access but should inform the design and maintenance of new systems to ensure optimal use for both patients and providers" (Terry, InformationWeek, 11/29).

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