Health Records: It’s Personal!

Do you go and see many doctors for different problems? Do you have a chronic condition needing follow-up visits and repeat testing? If so, you probably need a personal health record (PHR).

According to myphr.com,

The PHR is a tool that you can use to collect, track and share past and current information about your health or the health of someone in your care.

Although personal health records can be paper-based, more recent usage of the term implies an electronic tool. Another definition at healthIT gov states –

A personal health record (PHR) is an electronic application used by patients to maintain and manage their health information in a private, secure, and confidential environment. PHRs:

  • Are managed by patients
  • Can include information from a variety of sources, including health care providers and patients themselves
  • Can help patients securely and confidentially store and monitor health information, such as diet plans or data from home monitoring systems, as well as patient contact information, diagnosis lists, medication lists, allergy lists, immunization histories, and much more
  • Are separate from, and do not replace, the legal record of any health care provider
  • Are distinct from portals that simply allow patients to view provider information or communicate with providers

I live in an archipelago of 7,107 disaster-prone islands called the Philippines. When patients come to see me in the capital of Manila, it is often difficult to retrieve medical records from the geographically isolated areas from whence they came. It is also next to impossible to retrieve medical records that have been lost through fire, flood or earthquake. I have been privileged to meet patients with personal health records, often paper-based – think plastic bags or envelopes containing loose sheets of illegible prescriptions, clinical summaries faded from flood water stains or half burnt around the edges to folders containing dog-eared carbon copies of lab results. These are the patients who come to my clinic, ready to tell their story and take active part in their treatment. They watch hungrily as I peruse their personal health records. I barely hear them sigh when I close the folder (or gather up the loose pages into the envelope or plastic bag) and gaze up at them. Their eyes meet mine in an unspoken question, “Well, what do you think Doctor?”

And so I agree with Tang et al –

“Personal health record systems are more than just static repositories for patient data; they combine data, knowledge, and software tools, which help patients to become active participants in their own care.”

Tang PC et al. Personal Health Records: Definitions, Benefits, and Strategies for Overcoming Barriers to Adoption. JAMIA 2006 Mar-Apr; 13(2): 121–126.

Let’s talk about personal health records at #HealthXPh tweet chat this October 4, 9 pm Manila time (9 am EST).

T1 What are the barriers for individuals to keep personal health records?

T2 Which do you prefer and why – online, electronic or paper based personal health records?

T3 Which is better – provider-maintained or patient-owned personal health records?