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Personal Health Records in Your Future

In the previous blogs about medical records, we’ve pointed out that medical providers, by law, are required to replace paper-based patient records with electronic medical records (EMR) by 2015.  This computer-based format will pave the way eventually for a health information exchange (HIE), allowing all health providers to share a patient’s medical records.  This won’t happen anytime soon, however.  In the meantime, we’re left with medical records distributed among our medical providers (our internist, gynecologist, dermatologist, urologist, gastroenterologist, and the hospital we had our babies at), each record reflecting just that medical provider’s interactions with us.  Our health providers are left with only their small piece of our medical puzzle, unaware of all the other medical conditions we might have, prescription drugs we are using, or tests we’ve taken.   We the patients, on the other hand,  rarely see any of these files and wouldn’t know if they were inaccurate or out of date.

Increasingly, health care providers, employers, insurers, the federal government, and others who have a stake in our welfare, think there’s a more immediate answer to this problem.  Their solution calls for you to put together and maintain your own personal health record (PHR) which would make available, in one place, all the medical information  that’s at each of your medical providers offices.  In addition, you can include vital family health facts, allergies, and emergency contact information that’s important but probably not on any of the files now.  Here’s a sample of the medical information your PHR might contain:
·     Blood type
·    Your other medical providers
·    Health insurance information
·    Hospitalizations
·    Immunizations
·    Last physical
·    Results of tests and screenings
·    Major illnesses with dates
·    A list of your prescriptions, dosages and how long you’ve taken them
·    Vitamins taken regularly
·    Surgeries
·    Allergies
·    Any chronic diseases
·    History of illnesses in your family
·    Emergency contact
·    Living wills
·    Organ donor authorization
·    Health habits: smoking
·    Images and X-rays with dates and storage locations

Those you designate to view this record would now have a complete picture of your medical history.  Obviously, in a medical emergency, this information would be invaluable.  In routine medical circumstance, as well, the doctor/patient interactions would be more informed with better decisions made.   Doctor visits would address your health condition in a more holistic fashion instead of going down a narrow problem/symptom/cure track.  Duplicate lab tests can be avoided and a review of previous test results may provide a doctor with clues to your current condition.  In addition, it’s been found that people who use a personal health record are more engaged in their health and medical care.  They’re asking their doctors more questions and taking more responsibility in finding solutions to their health problems.

Some people are betting on a big future for personal health records.  They’ve developed tools to make it easier for us to generate our own PHRs.  We’ll take a look at these in our next blog, Personal Health Record Tools.

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