Background: Patient access to clinical information represents a means to improve the transparency and delivery of health care as well as interactions between patients and health care providers. We examine the movement toward augmenting patient access to clinical information using technology. Our analysis focuses on "Blue Button," a tool that many health care organizations are implementing as part of their Web-based patient portals. Objective: We present a framework for evaluating the effects that technology-assisted access to clinical information may have on stakeholder experiences, processes of care, and health outcomes. Methods: A case study of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) efforts to make increasing amounts of clinical information available to patients through Blue Button. Drawing on established collaborative relationships with researchers, clinicians, and operational partners who are engaged in the VA's ongoing implementation and evaluation efforts related to Blue Button, we assessed existing evidence and organizational practices through key informant interviews, review of documents and other available materials, and an environmental scan of published literature and the websites of other health care organizations. Results: Technology-assisted access to clinical information represents a significant advance for VA patients and marks a significant change for the VA as an organization. Evaluations of Blue Button should (1) consider both processes of care and outcomes, (2) clearly define constructs of focus, (3) examine influencing factors related to the patient population and clinical context, and (4) identify potential unintended consequences. Conclusions: The proposed framework can serve as a roadmap to guide subsequent research and evaluation of technology-assisted patient access to clinical information. To that end, we offer a series of related recommendations.
- Patient access to records
- Personal health record
- United States Department of Veterans Affairs
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