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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 get 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 have received during your life.

Most health records include:

  • Medicine records
  • Health history
  • Physical exam notes
  • Progress notes
  • Healthcare providers' orders to other members of your healthcare team
  • X-ray and lab reports
  • 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. This information will be available even if you change healthcare providers or your 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 provider's office is closed

  • Refer to¬†healthcare provider instructions, prescriptions, allergies, medicines, and insurance claims

Creating a PHR

To start your PHR, request copies of your current health records from all your healthcare providers. Contact your provider's office or the health information management or medical records staff at any hospital or facility where you had treatment. 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.

You may also be able to access your PHR online through a patient portal. Ask your healthcare provider's office if they use a patient portal and how to access it.

In addition, your PHR should include:

  • Your immunization status
  • List of medicines you currently take
  • List of recent or current illnesses, including chronic illnesses like high blood pressure or diabetes
  • 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.