Patients' online access to their electronic health records and linked online services: a systematic interpretative review

Simon de Lusignan, Freda Mold, Aziz Sheikh, Azeem Majeed, Jeremy C Wyatt, Tom Quinn, Mary Cavill, Toto Anne Gronlund, Christina Franco, Umesh Chauhan, Hannah Blakey, Neha Kataria, Fiona Barker, Beverley Ellis, Phil Koczan, Theodoros N Arvanitis, Mary McCarthy, Simon Jones, Imran Rafi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVES: To investigate the effect of providing patients online access to their electronic health record (EHR) and linked transactional services on the provision, quality and safety of healthcare. The objectives are also to identify and understand: barriers and facilitators for providing online access to their records and services for primary care workers; and their association with organisational/IT system issues.

SETTING: Primary care.

PARTICIPANTS: A total of 143 studies were included. 17 were experimental in design and subject to risk of bias assessment, which is reported in a separate paper. Detailed inclusion and exclusion criteria have also been published elsewhere in the protocol.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Our primary outcome measure was change in quality or safety as a result of implementation or utilisation of online records/transactional services.

RESULTS: No studies reported changes in health outcomes; though eight detected medication errors and seven reported improved uptake of preventative care. Professional concerns over privacy were reported in 14 studies. 18 studies reported concern over potential increased workload; with some showing an increase workload in email or online messaging; telephone contact remaining unchanged, and face-to face contact staying the same or falling. Owing to heterogeneity in reporting overall workload change was hard to predict. 10 studies reported how online access offered convenience, primarily for more advantaged patients, who were largely highly satisfied with the process when clinician responses were prompt.

CONCLUSIONS: Patient online access and services offer increased convenience and satisfaction. However, professionals were concerned about impact on workload and risk to privacy. Studies correcting medication errors may improve patient safety. There may need to be a redesign of the business process to engage health professionals in online access and of the EHR to make it friendlier and provide equity of access to a wider group of patients. A1 SYSTEMATIC REVIEW REGISTRATION NUMBER: PROSPERO CRD42012003091.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e006021
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sep 2014


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