Opening medical records for patients: a limited literature review

This story first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.
Personal health records (PHRs) are the next big thing after electronic health records (EHRs), enabled by the uptake of electronic clinical notes and additional functionality. As part of the Australasian College of Health Informatics’ (ACHI) new biannual evidence review, we assessed 10 research articles on patient accessible records published in 2013 to see if a picture is emerging on the design and use of PHRs.

PHRs have begun to feature in health IT policy, such as the development of the PCEHR in Australia, and a New Zealand policy specifying that everyone will have access to the basics of their health information. What does this mean and how can we leverage PHRs to improve health outcomes? Is it safe for patients to use the functions, and what are some of the barriers to engaging in healthcare via PHRs? What is the potential for PHRs to improve access to care and how will services change?

We have conducted a literature review of 10 articles about patient accessible records – a broader term to identify papers about PHRs, and the ‘state of accessibility’ – to assess the current state of play with PHR adoption. The articles were chosen from a broader group of articles suggested by ACHI members as being of particular importance or interest, as part of its newly instituted biannual evidence review.

The objective of this process was not to produce a systematic review of the literature, but rather a contemporaneous snapshot of evidence around an issue – in this case the issue of patient accessible records – put forward by the members of a key relevant national professional body.

The first step of our literature review was to invite ACHI Fellows to recommend articles for review for the year of 2013 on the topic of PHRs. There were 13 recommendations, and the authors also searched Medline, Google Scholar, PsychInfo and CINAHL databases to add to articles from the ACHI constituency to ensure good coverage on the topic. Articles were included if they presented research findings about patient accessible records (which were often PHRs) and/or patient portals. In total there were 33 articles, of which 10 were selected for more detailed analysis. Table 1 lists the selected articles.

To read the full story, click here for the July 2014 issue of Pulse+IT Magazine.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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