Managing Your Diabetes: Personal Health Records And Patient Portals

Having diabetes may be your only health concern, or it might be one of several. Either way, it can be difficult to keep track of numerous doctor recommendations, test results, and medication changes, but having a personal health record helps.

PHRs and EHRs

A personal health record (PHR) is a collection of all our medical information kept in one place. Many of us still use a shoebox or file folder to capture our health records, and this works pretty well—except we rarely have this information with us when we need it. PHRs generally include:

  • Doctor names, and phone numbers.
  • Family health history, immunization history, screening test results, and a list of major surgeries with dates.
  • Medications used, and dosages, plus drug (and other) allergies.
  • Info regarding any chronic health issues.
  • Advance directives, or living will.

The beauty of electronic PHRs is their anytime accessibility on a tablet, computer, or smartphone. Whenever we need the dose of a medication, or the phone number of our endocrinologist the answer is a just few finger taps away.

Most hospitals, and doctor’s offices are using electronic medical records (EHRs) to record patient information, but patients typically have limited access to them. PHRs are created by healthcare consumers for their own use.

Patient Portals

When a PHR is combined with an EHR it is called a patient portal. Many healthcare systems now offer patient portals that are accessed on electronic devices using a password. Beside containing medical records, patient portals typically offer med lists, appointment reminders, appointment summaries, educational materials, and secure messaging with the provider.

On some patient portals consumers can add information, such as home monitoring data, and health goals. If your patient portal does not allow added information, creating a separate PHR is something to consider.

PHR Pros and Cons

Whether you have a standalone PHR, or use a patient portal, an electronic health record provides two critical benefits. First, in emergencies important, possibly life-saving information can be quickly accessed, including our physician contact numbers. Second, if we see several doctors who do not use the same EHR system, a PHR can provide a consolidated, comprehensive view of our health history.

Electronic PHRs can also let people track progress toward their health goals, download data from home monitoring devices, and remind them to make annual appointments (e.g., eye exam, dental exam). A review of personal records before a doctor visit can make consultations more productive as well.

The downside to an electronic PHR is that updating it takes more time than throwing a paper medical record into a shoebox. After a doctor is seen, or prescriptions are changed, updated information usually needs to be entered manually. Patient portals are updated automatically, but they should be reviewed for possible errors following appointments, procedures, tests, or med changes.

Though online security is always a concern, reputable PHR systems follow the industry’s best practice standards for ensuring user privacy, and federal laws protecting personal health information are in place.

Backup

Even with a continuously updated patient portal, some people choose to carry basic medical info with them on a phone app, medical ID bracelet, or on a card in their wallet. This information might include advance directives, blood type, medical conditions, allergies, medications, and emergency contacts.

We can also continue to toss paper medical records into a folder or box as a backup. Electronic records are convenient, but hard copies still provide some people greater peace of mind.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Photo credit: Japanexperterna

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