Examination and diagnosis of electronic patient records and their associated ethics: a scoping literature review

, ,

Jacquemard T, Doherty CP, Fitzsimons MB.



Electronic patient record (EPR) technology is a key enabler for improvements to healthcare service and management. To ensure these improvements and the means to achieve them are socially and ethically desirable, careful consideration of the ethical implications of EPRs is indicated. The purpose of this scoping review was to map the literature related to the ethics of EPR technology. The literature review was conducted to catalogue the prevalent ethical terms, to describe the associated ethical challenges and opportunities, and to identify the actors involved. By doing so, it aimed to support the future development of ethics guidance in the EPR domain.


To identify journal articles debating the ethics of EPRs, Scopus, Web of Science, and PubMed academic databases were queried and yielded 123 eligible articles. The following inclusion criteria were applied: articles need to be in the English language; present normative arguments and not solely empirical research; include an abstract for software analysis; and discuss EPR technology.


The medical specialty, type of information captured and stored in EPRs, their use and functionality varied widely across the included articles. Ethical terms extracted were categorised into clusters ‘privacy’, ‘autonomy’, ‘risk/benefit’, ‘human relationships’, and ‘responsibility’. The literature shows that EPR-related ethical concerns can have both positive and negative implications, and that a wide variety of actors with rights and/or responsibilities regarding the safe and ethical adoption of the technology are involved.


While there is considerable consensus in the literature regarding EPR-related ethical principles, some of the associated challenges and opportunities remain underdiscussed. For example, much of the debate is presented in a manner more in keeping with a traditional model of healthcare and fails to take account of the multidimensional ensemble of factors at play in the EPR era and the consequent need to redefine/modify ethical norms to align with a digitally-enabled health service. Similarly, the academic discussion focuses predominantly on bioethical values. However, approaches from digital ethics may also be helpful to identify and deliberate about current and emerging EPR-related ethical concerns.


Posted on


Skip to content