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West J Emerg Med. 2012 May;13(2):172-5. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2011.11.6844.

Patient and physician willingness to use personal health records in the emergency department.



Patient care in the emergency department (ED) is often complicated by the inability to obtain an accurate prior history even when the patient is able to communicate with the ED staff. Personal health records (PHR) can mitigate the impact of such information gaps. This study assesses ED patients' willingness to adopt a PHR and the treating physicians' willingness to use that information.


This cross-sectional study was answered by 184 patients from 219 (84%) surveys distributed in an academic ED. The patient surveys collected data about demographics, willingness and barriers to adopt a PHR, and the patient's perceived severity of disease on a 5-point scale. Each patient survey was linked to a treating physician survey of which 210 of 219 (96%) responded.


Of 184 surveys completed, 78% of respondents wanted to have their PHR uploaded onto the Internet, and 83% of providers felt they would access it. Less than 10% wanted a software company, an insurance company, or the government to control their health information, while over 50% wanted a hospital to control that information. The patients for whom these providers would not have used a PHR had a statistically significant lower severity score of illness as determined by the treating physician from those that they would have used a PHR (1.5 vs 2.4, P < 0.01). Fifty-seven percent of physicians would only use a PHR if it took less than 5 minutes to access.


The majority of patients and physicians in the ED are willing to adopt PHRs, especially if the hospital participates. ED physicians are more likely to check the PHRs of more severely ill patients. Speed of access is important to ED physicians.

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