Open Access Research article

Is Canada ready for patient accessible electronic health records? A national scan

Sara Urowitz1*, David Wiljer12, Emma Apatu1, Gunther Eysenbach34, Claudette DeLenardo5, Tamara Harth6, Howard Pai789 and Kevin J Leonard34

Author affiliations

1 Princess Margaret Hospital/University Health Network, Canada

2 Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Toronto, Canada

3 Department of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto, Canada

4 Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, University Health Network, Canada

5 Grand River Hospital, Canada

6 Odette Cancer Centre/Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada

7 Department of Surgery, University of British Columbia, Canada

8 School of Health Information Sciences, University of Victoria, Canada

9 BC Cancer Agency, Victoria, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2008, 8:33  doi:10.1186/1472-6947-8-33

Published: 24 July 2008



Access to personal health information through the electronic health record (EHR) is an innovative means to enable people to be active participants in their own health care. Currently this is not an available option for consumers of health. The absence of a key technology, the EHR, is a significant obstacle to providing patient accessible electronic records. To assess the readiness for the implementation and adoption of EHRs in Canada, a national scan was conducted to determine organizational readiness and willingness for patient accessible electronic records.


A survey was conducted of Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of Canadian public and acute care hospitals.


Two hundred thirteen emails were sent to CEOs of Canadian general and acute care hospitals, with a 39% response rate. Over half (54.2%) of hospitals had some sort of EHR, but few had a record that was predominately electronic. Financial resources were identified as the most important barrier to providing patients access to their EHR and there was a divergence in perceptions from healthcare providers and what they thought patients would want in terms of access to the EHR, with providers being less willing to provide access and patients desire for greater access to the full record.


As the use of EHRs becomes more commonplace, organizations should explore the possibility of responding to patient needs for clinical information by providing access to their EHR. The best way to achieve this is still being debated.