J Am Med Inform Assoc doi:10.1136/amiajnl-2011-000261
  • Perspectives

The challenges in making electronic health records accessible to patients

  1. Jennifer Keelan1,6
  1. 1Centre for Innovation in Complex Care, University Health Network, Toronto, Canada
  2. 2Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies/Human Rights, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
  3. 3Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  4. 4Centre for Interprofessional Education, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  5. 5Department of Medicine, Ottawa Health Research Institute, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Canada
  6. 6Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jennifer Keelan, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 628-155 College Street, Toronto, ON M5T 3M7, Canada; jenn.keelan{at}
  • Received 18 March 2011
  • Accepted 19 October 2011
  • Published Online First 25 November 2011


It is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a tension between growing consumer demands for access to information and a healthcare system that may not be prepared to meet these demands. Designing an effective solution for this problem will require a thorough understanding of the barriers that now stand in the way of giving patients electronic access to their health data. This paper reviews the following challenges related to the sharing of electronic health records: cost and security concerns, problems in assigning responsibilities and rights among the various players, liability issues and tensions between flexible access to data and flexible access to physicians.


  • Funding KW is supported by the Canada Research chair in public health policy. JK is supported by a career scientist award (Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Government of Ontario).

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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