Maintaining Your Personal Health Record
Every time you visit a healthcare provider or hospital, a record of your visit is
made. This information is then collected into your health record. But, in most cases,
a complete record of all your personal health information can't be found in any single
location or in the same format. Keeping your own personal health record (PHR) allows
you to give healthcare providers valuable information that can help improve the quality
of care you receive.
A PHR can help reduce or eliminate duplicate tests. It can allow you to receive faster,
safer treatment and care in an emergency. It also can help you play a more active
role in your healthcare.
What is a PHR?
Your PHR is made up of many reports. The specific content depends on the type of healthcare
you've received throughout your life.
Most health records include medicine records, health history, physical exam notes,
progress notes, and healthcare providers' orders to other members of your healthcare
team. It also includes X-ray and lab reports and immunization records.
In 2003, federal laws known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability
Act (HIPAA) took effect to protect the privacy of health information. The laws also
make sure that you're able to view, request changes to, and get copies collected and
maintained about your health information documents.
When you need a PHR
Maintaining your own PHR is one of the best ways to always have your health information
available. By keeping your own records, you and family members can always have vital
information available, even if you change healthcare providers or your healthcare
provider relocates or retires.
With this information you can:
Knowledgeably discuss your health with healthcare providers
Provide information to new caregivers and specialists
Have access to your information when your healthcare provider's office is closed
Refer to healthcare provider instructions, prescriptions, allergies, medications,
and insurance claims
Creating a PHR
To start your PHR, request copies of your current health records from all your healthcare
providers. Contact your healthcare provider's office or the health information management
or medical records staff at any hospital or facility where you received treatment
and ask for an "authorization for the release of information" form.
Complete the form and return it, as directed. Ask in advance how much it will cost
to fulfill your request.
In addition, your PHR should include your immunization status; a list of medicines
you currently take; a list of recent or current illnesses, including chronic illnesses
like high blood pressure or diabetes; and a list of past major illnesses or surgeries.
Your personal health record can be as simple as a file folder of records kept in your
home. It can be kept on your home computer or through a reputable website. The key
is to have information at hand and up-to-date.