Intended for healthcare professionals


Potential of electronic personal health records

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 16 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:330
  1. Claudia Pagliari, senior lecturer in primary care1,
  2. Don Detmer, professor of medical education2,
  3. Peter Singleton, principal research fellow3
  1. 1Division of Community Health Sciences (GP Section), University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9DX
  2. 2Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia, PO Box 800717, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA
  3. 3Centre for Health Informatics and Multiprofessional Education, University College London, London N19 5LW
  1. Correspondence to: C Pagliari claudia.pagliari{at}
  • Accepted 28 May 2007

Novel methods for helping patients to access and manage their personal electronic health data are emerging in the UK and internationally. Claudia Pagliari, Don Detmer, and Peter Singleton examine their potential benefits and challenges

Public demand for flexible access to health information and services is growing, encouraged by internet trends and policies promoting patient rights and empowerment.1 In parallel, unprecedented global investment in healthcare information and communication technologies has been dominated by efforts to implement electronic health records, which promise improved quality and efficiency through better maintenance and availability of patient data.2 There is considerable international interest in the potential of electronic personal health records to bridge these agendas, and NHS HealthSpace is set to become the world's first fully national system, although its capabilities are still limited in comparison with some European and US examples. We consider the potential of electronic personal health records and factors that are likely to influence their adoption in the UK, drawing on a new report from the Nuffield Trust.3

What are electronic personal health records?

Although no universally agreed definition of an electronic personal health record exists,4 it has been described as “an electronic application through which individuals can access, manage and share their health information . . . in a private, secure and confidential environment.”5 Models vary in the extent to which the content of the record and rights of access are controlled by the patient or the healthcare provider, the range of tools that accompany it, and their interactivity. Simpler models include patient generated health and lifestyle records that are stored and managed using personal computer or web applications, and passive access to provider held records through waiting room kiosks, the internet, or digital copy (such as on a CD or smart card).

However, personal health record systems are becoming …

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