Law & Governance

Law & Governance 11(7) September 2008 : 64-68

Yes, Virginia, There Are System Benefits to Be Gained from Providing Patients Access to Their Own Health Information

Kevin J. Leonard, David Wiljer and Sara Urowitz


[This article was originally published in Healthcare Quarterly, Volume 11, Number 4.]


In the 1960s, Pierre Trudeau popularized the phrase "The Just Society" when he took over as the federal minister of justice. Four decades later, we have evolved into "The Informed Society," where consumers from all types of businesses and industries are playing larger roles in both the purchase and the development of products and services. One has to look no farther than the World Wide Web and the fascinating growth of sites such as YouTube ( and Facebook ( for evidence. In healthcare, however, such "grass roots" contributions have been slower to come to the fore, although recently initiatives like Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault and PatientsLikeMe are emerging as alternatives to the status quo. One reason for this latency in healthcare is a lack of familiarity with the system that uses language and jargon that is not accessible to the average consumer. Further, there is a lack of appreciation on behalf of consumers regarding the benefits resulting from the role that empowered patients can play. In addition, there are no "information access" points whereby communication between patients and the system can be affected. Ultimately, patients lack the encouragement, education and means surrounding their potential contribution.



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