While providers, healthcare executives and policymakers continue the debate about ownership of electronic health records (EHR), you still have some control over your health data. The alternative to your provider’s electronic health records is to create your own library of data with various eHealth tools.
Become an Engaged Health Consumer
Managing your personal health record (PHR) will help you become an engaged health consumer, put you in control of your information and of who has access to it. In some cases, your own records may be more accurate and useful to a care provider than fragments of records from past doctors’ visits. Continue reading to learn about compiling your own PHR.
Tracking Your Medical History
The idea behind a personal health record is that you are the one maintaining and using it. Errors can occur when your records are stored in various formats, such as paper and digital, and when your health history is spread across multiple providers.
When you’re just starting out, the good news is that most of your health data is stored somewhere. Health care providers have their own medical records that document your past appointments, tests, and results, so to get your own record going, it’s worth collecting this information from past providers. As time goes on, you’ll be able to record your own appointments, prescriptions, and tests almost instantly.
So, how do you track all of this? Honestly, it’s your choice.. Some patients may choose to keep paper records in a filing cabinet while others will use various eHealth apps to manage their records.
Using Digital PHR Management Tools
If you’re tracking your data digitally, this may involve inputting data or scanning in various forms, letters, and official documents. Most PHR tools allow you to add other relevant wellness information such as vitamin intake, over-the-counter drugs, sleep schedule, menstrual cycle, etc.
The good thing about these programs is that you can control access to them, so you don’t have to share them with your employer or insurance provider if you don’t want to. These applications are typically web-based, and they may be available for free or with a small subscription fee. Some examples of digital PHR Management tools include:
Your health care provider or employer may already offer a health portal where your data is uploaded automatically and where you can add your own information or download your records as needed. The problem is that fewer than half of patients actually know about these portals, and therefore, most don’t take advantage of them, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider to see if this option is available to you.
One thing to note, however, is that these portals—called tethered, connected PHRs—are not the same as standalone PHRs. A standalone PHR is one where you have full control and decide who has access to the information. Using a health care provider’s patient portal means they have access to the data. However, you can still use your connected PHR to gather your health data and copy it to your standalone PHR.
Gaining Access to This Data
As mentioned, you may already have access to your data through a patient portal. Check this option first since getting your hands on your data and downloading it will be pretty simple if this is available to you.
If that’s not the case, you can directly request a copy of your records from your health care provider. Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), you are entitled to “inspect, review, and receive a copy of your medical records and billing records,” says HealthIT.gov.
While there are many benefits to PHRs for the patient, there are some potential drawbacks. As an article on the Online Journal of Nursing Informatics states, “barriers to PHRs use include data accuracy, data privacy and security, and digital divide and literacy issues.” Since many PHRs are stored across a variety of devices, like mobile phones, data privacy is a big concern.
In developing PHRs for your family, be aware that you may run into issues in collecting their past data. In many cases, the patient him or herself has to be present to request that data, except in special cases, such as those involving mental health issues.
While there are some concerns with personal health records, there are numerous benefits, such as gaining control over your data and keeping a better record of personal observations like sleeping patterns. How will you take control of your health data?