We undertook a systematic review of the literature on the basis of published studies on the benefit and costs of Electronic Patient Records (EPRs) to clarify the issue of whether and to what extent the use of an EPR is worthwhile. We carried out a systematic electronic search for articles published between 1966 and early 2004 using MEDLINE, following up cross-references from the articles found. We searched first for suitable medical subject headings (MeSH) for electronic patient record, benefit and costs. We obtained 7860 citations with the MeSH keyword ''Medical Record System, Computerized". After combination with appropriate keywords this number was reduced to 588, after a review by two reviewers independently based on abstracts down to 95, and after a further review based on full-text articles to 19 covering 20 studies. The publications evaluated thus document the economic benefits of EPR in a number of areas, but they do not make a statement of the cost effectiveness of EPR in general.