DATA SAFETY

Personal health records


Will my information be kept private?

Perhaps the most common concerns about PHRs are about privacy and security. To address these issues, reputable PHR systems follow industry best practices, such as making their privacy policies public and submitting to monitoring by independent organizations. In addition, government laws have been put in place to protect the security of personal health information.

Personal health records and patient portals are powerful tools for managing your health.

A personal health record is simply a collection of information about your health. If you have a shot record or a folder of medical papers, you already have a basic personal health record.

And you’ve probably encountered the big drawback of paper records: You rarely have them with you when you need them.

Electronic personal health records (PHRs) remedy that problem by making your information accessible to you anytime via web-enabled devices, such as computers, smartphones and tablets.

In general, your PHR needs to include anything that helps you and your doctors manage your health — starting with the basics:

  • Your doctor’s names and phone numbers
  • Allergies, including drug allergies
  • Your medications, including dosages
  • List and dates of illnesses and surgeries
  • Chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure
  • Living will or advance directives
  • Family history
  • Immunization history

PHRs, EHRs and patient portals

PHRs are not the same as electronic health records (EHRs), also called electronic medical records (EMRs), which are owned and maintained by doctors’ offices, hospitals or health insurance plans.

EHRs typically contain the same basic information you would put in a PHR, such as your date of birth, medication list and drug allergies. But EHRs contain more extensive information because they’re used by health care providers to store visit notes, test results and much more.

What are the benefits of a PHR?

Having a PHR can be a lifesaver, literally. In an emergency you can quickly give first responders vital information, such as diseases you’re being treated for, medications you take, drug allergies, and contact information for your doctor.

If you see multiple doctors and they don’t use the same EHR system, a PHR is a good way to keep all of your health information in one place.

A PHR also empowers you to manage your health between visits. For example, a PHR enables you to:

  • Track and assess your health. Record and track your progress toward your health goals, such as lowering your cholesterol level.
  • Make the most of doctor visits. Be ready with questions for your doctor and information you want to share, such as blood pressure readings since your last visit.
  • Manage your health between visits. Upload and analyze data from home-monitoring devices such as a blood pressure cuff. And remind yourself of your doctor’s instructions from your last appointment.
  • Get organized. Track appointments, vaccinations, medications and preventive or screening services, such as mammograms. In fact, studies have shown when parents use personal health records for their children, the children are more likely to get their preventive well-child checkups on time.

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