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Patient and public perceptions of use of electronic health records for research

Immediate access to patients' complete health records via electronic databases could improve healthcare and facilitate health research. However, the possible benefits of a national electronic health records (EHR) system must be balanced against public concerns about data security and personal privacy. Successful development of EHRs requires better understanding of the views of the public and those most affected by EHRs: users of the National Health Service.

In an article published recently in BMC Medical Informatics & Decision Making, Serena Luchenski and colleagues from Imperial College London describe a protocol for a study that aims to explore the correlation between personal healthcare experience (including number of healthcare contacts and number and type of longer term conditions) and views relating to development of EHR for healthcare, health services planning and policy and health research.

A multi-site cross-sectional self-complete questionnaire designed for use in waiting rooms was administered to patients from randomly selected outpatients' clinics at a university teaching hospital and general practices from the four primary care trusts within the catchment area of the hospital. All patients entering the selected outpatients clinics and general practice surgeries were invited to take part in the survey during August-September 2011. Statistical analyses will be conducted using descriptive techniques to present respondents' overall views about electronic health records and logistic regression to explore associations between these views and participants' personal circumstances, experiences, socio-demographic characteristics and more specific views about electronic health records.

The study design and implementation were successful, resulting in very high response rates and overall recruitment. Rates for face-to-face recruitment in previous work are variable, but typically lower. In future work, Luchenski and colleagues will publish results of the analysis of the data collected in this project.

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