Cochrane Review: Patient online access to electronic health records


2016 - 2021

Funded by:

TWF Tyrolean Research Agency

Project Team
  • Elske Ammenwerth, Institute of Biomedical Informatics, UMIT
  • Alexander Hörbst, Institute of Biomedical Informatics, UMIT
  • Stefanie Lannig, Institute of Nursing Sciences, UMIT
  • Gerhard Müller, Institute of Nursing Sciences, UMIT
  • Petra Schnell-Inderst, Uwe Siebert, Institute of Public Health, Medical Decision Making and HTA, UMIT
Cooperation: Cochrane Collaboration, Consumer and Communication Group

Electronic health records (EHR) are used in most health care organizations nowadays to manage clinical information about the diagnosis, treatment and outcome of a given patient. This clinical information may comprise, among others, lab results, radiology findings, nursing documentation, allergy information, medication information and discharge letters.

Some health care organizations started to give their patients access to his or her individual clinical information contained in the EHR. The patient can access this clinical information, read and print it, or integrate it into any (electronic or paper-based) type of patient-owned record. This EHR access is typically web-based, allowing the patient accessing this clinical information via the Internet. Sometimes, besides offering EHR access, also other services may be offered to the patient through this web-based EHR access, including personal reminders, individual therapeutical recommendations, personal diaries, and social networking with other patients. This kind of EHR access with additional functionality is also called patient portals. However, EHR access can also be provided as specific service, not being integrated into a patient portal. Besides healthcare organization, EHR access may also be offered on a national scale. Countries such as Austria, Denmark or Sweden already started eHealth projects to make selected clinical information from various health care organizations available via the web to their citizens.

EHR access may increase patient empowerment and self-management competencies and by this EHR access may affect clinical outcome. We are thus interested in clinical outcomes like morbidity, health-related quality of life, reduction of risk factors and reduction of medication errors, as well as on patient-reported outcomes like patient empowerment, self-management, health beliefs.

At the moment, there is insufficient evidence regarding the impact of providing EHR access to patients. The number of randomized controlled studies on the impact of EHR access seems limited. Overall, there seems to be large uncertainties regarding the impact of providing EHR access to patients. Thus, hospitals do not know whether it is worthwhile to invest in providing EHR access to their patients.


To conduct a Cochrane review on RCTs on the effect of providing patients with access to an electronic health record on patient relevant and clinical outcomes.


Cochrane Review

The review is registered at Cochrane Collaboration under ID 073515070204055512.


At the moment, the detailed review protocol is developed.

Publications: Ammenwerth E, Lannig S, Hörbst A, Müller G, Schnell-Inderst P. Adult patient access to electronic health records (Protocol). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2017, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD012707. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD012707.

(please find a complete list of publications in our list of publications)