Electronic medical records valuable for patients

26 November 2018

Patients strongly favour electronic access to their medical records and the possibilities that this resource offers. That is clear from a comprehensive survey in Sweden headed by Uppsala University. The results are especially interesting in view of the widespread criticism that the service has received from health care personnel.

In 2012 it became possible for all residents under the Uppsala County Council (now Region Uppsala) to log in and read their medical records online. Other county councils have subsequently gradually joined the service, which is accessed via www.1177.se, Vårdguiden (Health Care Guide). In addition to the notes from health care visits, the medical records contain details such as vaccinations, referrals, diagnoses and test results.

The introduction of online electronic medical records was controversial. Health care personnel were concerned that patients would be hurt and that the service would mean more work for the staff.

After five years with online electronic medical records, an extensive survey was launched during the summer of 2017 that focused on how patients perceived and used the online records service and its features. This is the first major, national follow-up study on the effects of online medical records for patients in Sweden.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Skövde, Karolinska Institutet, Royal Institute of Technology, Uppsala University and Örebro University and was headed by Jonas Moll, a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Information Technology, Uppsala University.

The first results will now be published in a journal article focusing on attitudes, usage and information needs. More than 2,500 patients have responded to the survey, and key findings show that:

  • access to test results is the most important feature for patients
  • patients mainly use online electronic medical records to gain an overview of their health and contacts with health care providers and to follow up visits
  • patients strongly favour online electronic medical records as a reform and the possibilities that the system offers
  • patients want access to information in the medical records within 24 hours of visits/taking of specimens.

The published article is the first in a series of journal articles on the patient survey that the research team is working on. Next up are articles that focus on certain groups of patients and an article that contrasts the concerns of health care personnel with the experience of patients.

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Reference: Moll, J., et al. (2018). “Patients’ Experiences of Accessing Their Electronic Health Records: National Patient Survey in Sweden.” Journal of Medical Internet Research 2018;20(11):e278. https://www.jmir.org/2018/11/e278.

The ongoing work of the Health, Technology and Organisations (HTO) research team can be followed on Twitter (@DOME_co) and also (in English) on the research team’s blog.