J Am Med Inform Assoc 13:121-126 doi:10.1197/jamia.M2025
  • The Practice of Informatics
  • White Paper

Personal Health Records: Definitions, Benefits, and Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Adoption

  1. Paul C Tang,
  2. Joan S Ash,
  3. David W Bates,
  4. J Marc Overhage,
  5. Daniel Z Sands
  1. Affiliations of the authors: Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Palo Alto, CA (PCT); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR (JSA); Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard University, Boston, MA (DWB); Regenstrief Institute, Indianapolis, IN (JMO); Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA (DZS); Zix Corporation, Dallas, TX (DZS)
  1. Correspondence and reprints: Paul C. Tang, MD, MS, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, 795 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301; e-mail: <tang{at}>
  • Received 29 November 2005
  • Accepted 5 December 2005


Recently there has been a remarkable upsurge in activity surrounding the adoption of personal health record (PHR) systems for patients and consumers. The biomedical literature does not yet adequately describe the potential capabilities and utility of PHR systems. In addition, the lack of a proven business case for widespread deployment hinders PHR adoption. In a 2005 working symposium, the American Medical Informatics Association's College of Medical Informatics discussed the issues surrounding personal health record systems and developed recommendations for PHR-promoting activities. Personal health record systems are more than just static repositories for patient data; they combine data, knowledge, and software tools, which help patients to become active participants in their own care. When PHRs are integrated with electronic health record systems, they provide greater benefits than would stand-alone systems for consumers. This paper summarizes the College Symposium discussions on PHR systems and provides definitions, system characteristics, technical architectures, benefits, barriers to adoption, and strategies for increasing adoption.


  • This paper summarizes the discussions that occurred at the 2005 Symposium of the American College of Medical Informatics in Key West, FL. Although the authors led many of the discussions, the comments summarized here reflect the in-depth knowledge and years of hands-on experience developing, testing, implementing, and evaluating PHR and EHR systems by over 50 fellows of the College. It is our privilege to report them. We greatly appreciate the many helpful suggestions of the editor and reviewers.

Free Sample

This recent issue is free to all users to allow everyone the opportunity to see the full scope and typical content of JAMIA.
View free sample issue >>

Access policy for JAMIA

All content published in JAMIA is deposited with PubMed Central by the publisher with a 12 month embargo. Authors/funders may pay an Open Access fee of $2,000 to make the article free on the JAMIA website and PMC immediately on publication.

All content older than 12 months is freely available on this website.

AMIA members can log in with their JAMIA user name (email address) and password or via the AMIA website.

Navigate This Article