Personal Health Records
It's frustrating to hunt around for information you suddenly need about your son's last tetanus shot. Or when you had your last mammogram. It would be nice to have this type of information at your fingertips.
Personal health records, or PHRs, allow you to do this. A PHR is a collection of important information that you keep about your health or the health of someone that you care for, such as a parent or a child. You actively maintain and update the information.
In some offices where doctors have put in electronic health systems, patients can see some of this information through a “patient portal”. This allows you to get access to certain types of information and services such as setting up an appointment, getting lab results, referrals, or prescription drug information. If this type of service is important to you, check to see if it is available in your doctor's office.
But many of us go to multiple doctors and health professionals, so it's nice to have information all in one place. That's where a PHR can help.
The types of information that you might keep in a PHR include:
- A list of illnesses or operations
- Prescription drugs
- Immunizations and other preventive screening results
- Lab reports
- History and physicals
- Visit information and summaries
In some cases, X-rays and other imaging reports can also be stored in a PHR—as well as your own observations about how you feel.
PHRs can be set up and maintained the old fashioned way, using paper in folders or binders, though many people want to keep information on-line. This can be done either by downloading software onto your computer, or using a web-based application. Some PHRs are free – others you purchase. In some cases, a PHR might be available through your doctor's office, workplace or insurance company.
For an excellent overview of PHRs see the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) website myPHR: http://www.myphr.com
myPHR also provides links to a list of online and paper PHRs here:
If you want information about how to get copies of your medical record to start building your PHR, see this former Patch story: “How to Get Your Medical Records” (2-8-12):