Ethical aspects in the use of electronic medical records: analyzing who matters the most

Abstract Purpose: To investigate the patients’ perspectives regarding the introduction of the electronic medical record into use in an ophthalmologic hospital and its impact on the doctor/patient relationship. Methods: The cross-sectional study analyzed the impact of the electronic medical record on the doctor-patient relationship based on the patients’ opinions after electronic medical record implementation compared with use of traditional paper records. The same doctor attended all patients and completed questionnaires during patient interviews that analyzed empathy, punctuality, efficiency, information clarity, doctor cordiality, respect, trustworthiness, patient benefits from the technology, confidentiality, and humanized care. The inclusion criteria included age of 18 years or older, adequate cognition, previous treatment in the same institution by the same doctor using paper medical records and later the electronic medical record, and free and informed written patient consent. The exclusion criteria included age below 18 years, inadequate time to answer the questionnaire, first patient visit, doubtful interview responses, and first visit before 6 months after electronic medical record implementation. The data were analyzed descriptively by relative and absolute frequencies. A previous pilot study of 20 patients yielded 95% confidence intervals for the percentages of agreement for the electronic medical record questionnaire responses obtained and found that 160 patients was adequate for performing the study. Results: The patients reported that the electronic medical record had a positive impact on the doctor-patient relationship in all areas considered. Over 94% of patients responded affirmatively when questioned about their confidence in the confidentiality of their data, 38.3% noted changes in the doctor’s concern for service and 68% agreed that clarity of the information provided by the doctor was greater with the electronic medical record. Conclusion: Based on the patients’ perceptions, the EMR positively affected the doctor-patient relationship after the implementation of the technology in a private ophthalmologic hospital.