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Helping clinicians and patients navigate electronic patient portals: ethical and legal principles

NA-SM-Navigating Patient Portals


Patient portals are technological innovations that allow patients electronic access to their personal health information. They have the potential to transform the delivery of health care. Patients have long had the ability to request their own medical record, usually through an onerous and time-consuming paper-based approach. With the advent of remote digital access, not only is viewing health information easier, but allowing proxy access — or granting permission to a person other than the patient to view the patient’s health information — is increasingly more common. Large corporations (e.g., Apple) have recognized this shift and are beginning to offer consumer-driven platforms that are bound to transform our current philosophy of record access. This shift has implications for clinicians who are traditionally considered the custodians of health information, as decision-making around access will often fall to them. In light of this responsibility, clinician concerns such as disruption of the therapeutic relationship, novel medicolegal burdens in the digital environment and the potential for patient harm with access to sensitive information must be addressed.

Authors: S. Mehta, T. Jamieson, A.D. Ackery

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