Patients’ Access to their Medical Records

Liliana Laranjo, Ana Luisa Neves, Tiago Villanueva, Jorge Cruz, Armando Brito de Sá, Constantitno Sakellarides


Until recently, the medical record was seen exclusively as being the property of health institutions and doctors. Its great technical and scientific components, as well as the personal characteristics attributed by each doctor, have been the reasons appointed for that control. However, nowadays throughout the world that paradigm has been changing. In Portugal, since 2007 patients are allowed full and direct access to their medical records. Nevertheless, the Deontological Code of the Portuguese Medical Association (2009) explicitly states that patients’ access to their medical records should have a doctor as intermediary and that the records are each physician’s intellectual property. Furthermore, several doctors and health institutions, receiving requests from patients to access their medical records, end up requesting the legal opinion of the Commission for access to administrative documents. Each and every time, that opinion goes in line with the notion of full and direct patient access. Sharing medical records with patients seems crucial and inevitable in the current patient-centred care model, having the potential to improve patient empowerment, health literacy, autonomy, self-efficacy and satisfaction with care. With the recent technological developments and the fast dissemination of Personal Health Records, it is foreseeable that a growing number of patients will want to access their medical records. Therefore, promoting awareness on this topic is essential, in order to allow an informed debate between all the stakeholders.

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