Finding the Person in Electronic Health Records. A Mixed-Methods Analysis of Person-Centered Content and Language

Health Commun. 2022 Apr;37(4):418-424. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1846275. Epub 2020 Nov 19.


The co-creation and sharing of documentation of person-centered care is important, but challenging in clinical practice. Online access to health records is considered essential to increase patient participation and empowerment in person-centered care provision. The aims of this study were (1) to identify the extent of person-centered content in medical inpatient records and discharge letters; (2) to describe the characteristics of the language and rhetoric used in discharge letters. This was a concurrent, mixed-methods study involving a deductive, quantitative analysis of person-centered content in 69 Patient Accessible Electronic Health Records from patients with pituitary tumors, and an iterative, qualitative language analysis of a nested sample of 57 discharge letters. Both the content and language of inpatient records were mostly patient-centered. Records were concerned with the documentation of symptoms and medical and care interventions. There was little person-centered documentation of patients' preferences, wishes and needs, and shared decision-making. In the discharge letters, written for the patients, some physicians had attempted to write in a person-centered way, using plain language and a narrative. However, most wrote in a style that was reflective of their discourse community, using abbreviations and medical terms. Established norms for documentation in healthcare are a barrier to person-centered documentation. Patients' needs and preferences about documentation should be explored to increase understanding of how person-centered documentation can be achieved in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Patient Discharge
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient-Centered Care / methods