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J Gen Intern Med. 2017 Aug;32(8):935-939. doi: 10.1007/s11606-017-4030-1. Epub 2017 Mar 20.

Ethical Implications of the Electronic Health Record: In the Service of the Patient.

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American College of Physicians, 190 North Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA, 19106, USA.
Health Equity and Inclusion, UUHS, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Collaboration/Engagement Team, Center for Clinical and Translational Science, University of Utah Health Sciences, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Huntsman Cancer Institute, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
University of Utah School of Medicine, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.
Virginia Mason Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


Electronic health records (EHRs) provide benefits for patients, physicians, and clinical teams, but also raise ethical questions. Navigating how to provide care in the digital age requires an assessment of the impact of the EHR on patient care and the patient-physician relationship. EHRs should facilitate patient care and, as an essential component of that care, support the patient-physician relationship. Billing, regulatory, research, documentation, and administrative functions determined by the operational requirements of health care systems, payers, and others have resulted in EHRs that are better able to satisfy such external functions than to ensure that patient care needs are met. The profession has a responsibility to identify and address this mismatch. This position paper by the American College of Physicians (ACP) Ethics, Professionalism and Human Rights Committee does not address EHR design, user variability, meaningful use, or coding requirements and other government and payer mandates per se; these issues are discussed in detail in ACP's Clinical Documentation policy. This paper focuses on EHRs and the patient-physician relationship and patient care; patient autonomy, privacy and confidentiality; and professionalism, clinical reasoning and training. It explores emerging ethical challenges and concerns for and raised by physicians across the professional lifespan, whose ongoing input is crucial to the development and use of information technology that truly serves patients.

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