The effects of promoting patient access to medical records: a review

J Am Med Inform Assoc. Mar-Apr 2003;10(2):129-38. doi: 10.1197/jamia.m1147.


The Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act (HIPPA) stipulates that patients must be permitted to review and amend their medical records. As information technology makes medical records more accessible to patients, it may become more commonplace for patients to review their records routinely. This article analyzes the potential benefits and drawbacks of facilitating patient access to the medical record by reviewing previously published research. Previous research includes analysis of clinical notes, surveys of patients and practitioners, and studies of patient-accessible medical records. Overall, studies suggest the potential for modest benefits (for instance, in enhancing doctor-patient communication). Risks (for instance, increasing patient worry or confusion) appear to be minimal in medical patients. The studies, however, were of limited quality and low statistical power to detect the variety of outcomes that may result from implementation of a patient-accessible medical record. The data from these studies lay the foundation for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
  • Humans
  • Medical Records*
  • Patient Access to Records* / psychology
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • United States