Why You Need a Personal Health Record


Storing and tracking your medical records online can help save you time, money and possible health complications by taking an active role in monitoring your health.

Pop quiz: Name the medications prescribed to you, the findings of your last medical exam, your cholesterol level, and the date you received your rubella immunization shot. If you had a personal health record, you’d quickly know the answers to these. A personal health record, also known as a PHR, is a tool that can help you track, monitor and share your health information.

Why do I need a personal health record?

Right now, your health history is probably scattered in a number of different places—in your memory and personal files, at your various health care providers’ offices and in your health insurance provider’s records.

Each of these provides glimpses into your overall health, but not a complete view. By gathering and organizing this information in one spot, your personal health record enables you to:

  • Save time and money from repeating routine medical tests.
  • Reduce potential harmful reactions by coordinating the care you receive from multiple health care providers.
  • Record your progress towards health goals.
  • Track your medical and health care services and appointments.
  • Partner with your health care providers in monitoring your overall health.
  • Present your health care information to new providers.

And, if you have an online personal health record—known as an electronic medical record—you have the added ability to:

  • Access your medical information at anytime from anywhere.
  • Give family members or others limited access to your personal health record to use in the event of an emergency.

What information is included in my personal health or electronic medical record?


Your personal health record will be unique to you, depending on your health situation. In general, however, all should include the following information:

  • Your name, address, contact information and insurance information.
  • Any major illnesses or operations.
  • A list of all your prescribed medications.
  • A family health history.
  • Progress and consultative notes from your doctors, nurses, therapists and others caring for your overall health. These notes discuss your recommended treatment, your response to treatment and other observations.
  • Findings from imaging and x-ray reports, as well as any lab or diagnostic test results.
  • Your immunization record.
  • Copies of consent and authorization forms, such as a release of information or living will.

Is my personal health record secure?

If you are using a software-based personal health record, you should take care to protect your medical information just as you would any other important financial or personal information.

If you are using a web-based personal health record, you should do a little research into the security practices of each vendor you are considering by reading their privacy policies to understand how your personal health information will be used and protected.

Which personal health record system is right for me? When deciding which personal health record is right for you, be sure it will fit your needs by asking the following questions:

  • What kinds of medical and personal information can I store?
  • Does the personal health record have the capability to link to my insurance provider or doctor to import my information automatically?
  • Can I give permission to my doctors or family members to access my medical information?
  • What kinds of health research and tools are included?
  • What are the privacy and security policies?
  • What happens to my information if I leave my health insurance provider or doctor, or if the company providing my personal health record goes out of business?
  • Can I refill prescriptions or make doctor appointments through my personal health record?


Many companies offer personal health records—some require a monthly fee while some are free and some are software systems while others are housed on the Web. Click here for a tool that provides you with a listing of companies offering personal health record services based on the cost and format you prefer. In addition, many health insurance providers and doctors are now providing the service as well.

How do I create my personal health record?

If you are using an electronic medical record format and your service can link to your doctor or health insurance provider, then much of your medical information can be downloaded automatically. Most likely, you will need to do some of your own research and manually input older records, past illnesses or surgeries, your family’s health history, your personal health goals and your immunization records.

This will take some time and effort on your part. But once you have created your personal health record, all you will need to do is update it for a complete picture of your past and current health care.

Related Articles

Source: American Health Information Management Association, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, myPHR.com
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