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Public Trust and Privacy in Shared Electronic Health Records

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image of European Journal of Health Law

The development of information and communication technology in health care, also called eHealth, is expected to improve patient safety and facilitate more efficient use of limited resources. The introduction of electronic health records (EHRs) can make possible immediate, even automatic transfer of patient data, for health care as well as other purposes, across any kind of institutional, regional or national border. Data can thus be shared and used more effectively for quality assurance, disease surveillance, public health monitoring and research. eHealth may also facilitate patient access to health information and medical treatment, and is seen as an effective tool for patient empowerment. At the same time, eHealth solutions may jeopardize both patient safety and patients' rights, unless carefully designed and used with discretion. The success of EHR systems will depend on public trust in their compatibility with fundamental rights, such as privacy and confidentiality. Shared European EHR systems require interoperability not only with regard to technological and semantic standards, but also concerning legal, social and cultural aspects. Since the area of privacy and medical confidentiality is far from harmonized across Europe, we are faced with a diversity that will make fully shared EHR systems a considerable challenge.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Medical Law, Uppsala University, Sweden


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