Access and use by individuals

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Digital Health Evidence Review: This section describes how individuals access and use their electronic health information.

How do individuals access and manage their My Health Record?

My Health Record provides a secure online summary of an individual’s health information. More information in this review about the features of My Health Record is available here.

The ways in which individuals can register for a My Health Record include: assisted registration by their healthcare provider; through the Department of Human Services; or online self-registration using the My Health Record website (i.e. consumer portal). Australia is moving to an ‘opt-out’ participation model, so that by the end of 2018, a My Health Record will be created for every Australian unless they choose not to have one.

Individuals can access their My Health Record in two ways: through their myGov account or by using one of the approved mobile apps (five at August 2018) that are authorised to connect to the My Health Record system. These apps offer more choice to people for viewing their My Health Record data by providing different types of displays, however do not allow download of any My Health Record data for third party use.

1 x Portal My Health Record 5 x Mobile Apps
1 x Portal My Health Record 5 x Mobile Apps

Individuals have a range of privacy controls that they can choose to apply to their My Health Record so that they can decide with whom they would like to share their personal health information.

Decline Access Decline Access: They can choose to decline access to specific documents in their My Health Record, as well as decline access to specific healthcare provider organisations.
Setup a code< Setup a code: They can set up a code that will mean only clinicians with permission can access their My Health Record. Additional codes to limit access can be applied to specific documents within the record.
Subscribe Subscribe: They can subscribe to SMS or email alerts that report in real time when registered provider organisations access their My Health Record for the first time.
Emergency Access Emergency Access: In an emergency, a clinician can exercise a 'break glass' facility to access a patient's record who has restricted access- but instances are carefully monitored and reported to the individual.
Logged Logged: All instances of access to My Health Record are logged in real time and show the consumer all instances of healthcare provider organisations accessing their record

What level of access do individuals have to their health information internationally?

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s 2015 Global Survey on eHealth provides insight into the international legal frameworks governing access to information within electronic health records (EHRs) in different countries.[1]

access my own record

Data was collected on 125 WHO member states and the report showed that only only 29% of the surveyed countries report having legislation in place which allows individuals access to their own health-related information (e.g. medical history, medications, allergies) in an EHR.[1]

Moreover, a recent OECD report showed that 20 out of the 30 surveyed countries reported that patients could view information contained in their own record and 14 out of the 30 countries reported that patients could interact with their own record. [2]

An individual's access to their EHRs has been a key priority in the US and this is considered an advanced function of EHRs. Figure 1 below shows that the largest increase has been hospitals providing capabilities to enable patients to send their health information to another person or organisation with a 52% increase, followed by providing capabilities for downloading information with a 50% increase between 2013 and 2014.[3]

Figure 1 Percentage of hospitals adoption of patient engagement functionalities US, 2013 - 2014

What rights do individuals have to edit and author health information?

In Australia, individuals have the general right to access and correct health information as supported by the My Health Record Act and Australian privacy legislation. [4] Editing and authoring information means that individuals are able to change and add information. The legal frameworks that enable individuals to alter their health-related data varies globally.

From the 2015 WHO survey [1]:

32% of surveyed countries had legislation in place that allowed individuals to request corrections to their own health-related data in EHR
18% had legislation that allowed individuals to demand the deletion of health-related data
28% had legislation that allowed individuals to specify which health-related data is shared with health professionals of their choice

Digital Health Review LogoAdvanced levels of editing in EHRs is limited. In one recent study comparing European countries to Australia and New Zealand, only Australia and France allowed individuals to edit or author parts of their record but over half the included countries allowed individuals to restrict access to specific information. [5]

How do individuals use their PHRs and portals?

Individual access iconIn addition to viewing health information electronically, individuals are also using their PHRs and portals for additional functions such as renewing prescriptions, e-consultations with GPs, accessing dental records, and viewing upcoming medical appointments.[6] Below are examples of individuals’ use in the US, Finland and UK.

National data from the US indicates that in 2017 over half of individuals, 52%, reported that they had been offered online access to their medical record by a health care provider or insurer.[7] Of the 52% that were offered access, 28% had viewed their record online in the past year and 24% did not view their record online in the past year.[7] Most individuals reported viewing their record 1 to 2 times in the year and the most common reasons for using the online record was to view test results (85%) or perform health-related tasks (e.g. refill prescriptions, make appointments) (62%).[7]

A subset of the US population where there is key data on the use of a portal is with the veteran population. In the US, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides healthcare to veterans. There are over 21 million veterans with more than 6 million currently receiving ongoing healthcare. [8]The My HealtheVet system is the portal that enables veterans to access their health information.

A snapshot of My HealtheVet activity between July and September 2017 showed:

  • Just over 1.2 million users (i.e., 6% of total veterans) logged into My HealtheVet [9] equating to 20% of the veteran population receiving healthcare support
  • There were over 1.5 million downloads of summary health records within the 1.2 million users equating to 1.3 downloads per person[6]
  • In terms of frequency of use between October and December 2015, 78% of users reported using the website at least once a year, 45% reported once a month and 28% reported once a week[10]

Additional functions for which veterans use My HealtheVet include[10]:

  • 55% of users refilled a prescription and 27% tracked the prescription delivery
  • 27% used secure messaging with their healthcare providers
  • 34% viewed their appointments

Those who viewed their summary health information using the veterans affairs notes function reported that the key reasons for doing so were because they wanted to know more about their health, they were curious and they wanted to be sure they understood what healthcare providers had said.[11]

In Finland, individuals can access their health information through a portal called Kanta Pages. A snapshot of activity showed:

  • As of December 2016, 1.89 million different individuals had accessed My Kanta pages since launch (approximately 35% of the population) [12]
  • In September 2017, 524,690 individuals (9.7% of the population) accessed My Kanta pages [13]
  • In September 2017, there were 1,142,008 logins, which is approximately 2 per person [13]

In Sweden, individuals can access their health information through a portal called Journalen. A snapshot of activity showed:

  • As of February 2017, 37.9% of the population had set up accounts [14] and between 10,000 and 13,000 new users logged in every day nationally [15]
  • As of December 2017, 46% or 4.6 million Swedish citizens had logged in to access services available on Journalen. [16] This is a significant increase from February 2017 when just over 1 million citizens had accessed their record [15]
  • In April 2018, 1.8 million unique users accessed the Journalen e-service [16]
  • There are approximately 1 million logins to Journalen each month [16]


Globally, providing individuals with access to a key summary of their electronic health information remains a priority for many countries in order to support patients in the self-management of their care and to facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers. The type of access and control that individuals have with their electronic health information varies from simply viewing to being able to author and add their own information. In addition to accessing summary health information, individuals across the globe are being provided with functions through PHRs and portals that support them in the management of their health (e.g. e-consultation, renew prescriptions).

1 World Health Organization (WHO). Atlas of eHealth Country Profiles. 2015.
Available from: [Accessed 1st Sept 2017].

2 Oderkirk J. OECD Health Working Paper No. 99 - Readiness of electronic health record systems to contribute to national health information and research. 2017.

3 American Hospital Association. Hospitals Advance Information Sharing, but External Barriers to Increased Data Exchange Remain. Feb 2016. [Accessed 1st Nov 2017].

4 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner – Australian Government. Privacy fact sheet 50: Accessing and correcting your health information. Available from: [Accessed 9th July 2018].

5 Nohr C, Wong MC, Turner P, Almond H, Pary L, Gilstad H, et al. Citizens' Access to their Digital Health Data in Eleven Countries - A Comparative Study. Studies in Health Technology and Informatics. 2016; 228-685.

6 Accenture Consulting. Accenture 2016 Customer Survey on Patient Engagement - Global Report.

7 Patel V, Johnson C. Individuals’ use of online medical records and technology for health needs. ONC Data Brief, no. 40. 2018. Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology: Washington DC.

8 Evans NC_. VA Connected Care: Enhancing Veteran Access and Experience in the USA_. HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition 2017. Available from: [Accessed 10th Oct 2017].

9 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. My HealtheVet Metrics. Available from: [Accessed 10th Oct 2017].

10 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Hey, My HealtheVet You're in Good Company. Available from: [Accessed 10th Oct 2017].

11 Nazi K, Turvey C, Klein D, et al. VA OpenNotes: exploring the experiences of early patient adopters with access to clinical notes. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association. 2014;22(2):380-389.

12 Hamalainen P. Governance for the Many Uses of EHR Data. European Health Telematics Association 2017 Symposium. Available from: [Accessed 19th Oct 2017].

13 My Kanta Pages. The use of My Kanta pages in last twelve months 2017. Available from: [Accessed 23rd Nov 2017].

14 Armstrong S. Patient access to health records: striving for the Swedish ideal. The British Medical Journal.2017;357:j2069.

15 Scandurra I, Pettersson M, Hagglund M. When do people read their health record?: analysis of usage data of a national eHealth service giving patients access to their electronic health record. 2017 Conference paper presented at Informatics for Health 2017, Manchester, UK, April 24-26, 2017. Available at: [Accessed 14th June 2018].

16 Hagglund M. Email sent to: Meredith Makeham 24th May 2018.