The medical field may be one of the last to embrace the use of computers and technology to keep, share, monitor, & correlate data on individual’s records, specifically those that are health related. While that is gradually changing, it is still critical for you to have some sort of organized system for keeping your own information. What kind of information you should keep and how you maintain the information is a personal choice. Basic medical information should include: insurance information, lab results, names & phone numbers (doctors, practitioners, family members, etc.), injuries, illnesses, surgeries, allergies, and treatments. And, whether you use a paper notebook, computer program, or website; you need to have a system! Many Americans are fairly mobile – they’ve been in a variety of hospitals and seen a wide range of doctors/practitioners in their lifetimes so in fact, there’s probably no one source of all the reports, results, analyses, and consultations that have been generated about you. You’ve heard the phrase that is popular in consumer health circles these days – you have to be your own advocate. Well, being a good advocate starts with knowing as much as you can about your health history and being able to share it in a timely and concise manner.
A paper notebook or 3-ring binder is an easy first choice – low tech and affordable but useful nonetheless. You include notes and paper copies of test results, hospitalizations, procedures, etc. Computer software programs that you load onto your own equipment are an option. Commercial products include Life Record, HealthFile, HealthFrame, CVS CareMark, and many others. (yep, there’s even an app for this!) They allow you to input data in spreadsheet fashion. Online services include HealthManager from WebMD and My Health Manager from Kaiser Permanente to name 2 and often allow integration of information sourced from you as well as your doctors/practitioners.
But, how do you decide which way to go, what do you need to consider before joining an online service, what safeguards do you need to have in place? Back in May, 2008, SmartMoney online contained an article, How To Choose a Personal Health Record that provides a thorough rundown of the issues involved in making such a decision. On their website, the American Health Information Management Association has comprehensive tools for learning about PHRs, how to address privacy concerns, how to create and use a PHR, and many other issues. And, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Agency for Healthcare & Research offers a short video that discusses creating a personal medical record.
So, don’t wait for an urgent need for your medical information. Consider your options now and get started creating the PHR system that’s right for you.
*inclusion of the named commercial products in this post does not constitute an endorsement. They are listed only as examples, many others are available. Consult your insurance provider or doctor for their recommendations.
-Eunice B., Reference Librarian