Date Published: 20 November 2005

Carry your own Personal Health Record (PHR) ?
Some Americans do.

Health News from the United States of America (USA)

Health News from the USA

A personal health record (PHR) is often a paper-based personal health diary that patients can take with them when they visit a health care provider. Such a diary typically includesdetails of medications, insurance coverage, illnesses, injuries and so on. Last year, the U.S. Surgeon General declared Thanksgiving Day as National Family History Day to focus attention on the importance of learning about and documenting family health histories.

" I wouldn't go to the doctor without my personal health record," said Dr Jody Smith, chairman of the department of health information management at Saint Louis University's Doisy College of Health Sciences.
" A PHR is a way of encouraging health care consumers to take a more active role in their care and to communicate better with their health care providers."

" There's a trust we have with our doctors that they're going to have all the information about us at their fingertips, but that's a bit unrealistic," said Smith, a member of the U.S. Surgeon General's Family Health Initiative Steering Committee.
" When I go to see my internist, for example, nine times out of 10 he won't have a copy of the results of my mammogram because the report was sent to my gynecologist. But because I kept a personal health record, I can provide the report to my internist. It's all about empowering yourself as a patient."

In addition to keeping her own PHR, Smith keeps one for her husband, her son and her 80-year-old mother.

" One question doctors always ask is what medications you're taking," Smith said.

" If you're taking more than a couple, it might be difficult to remember the names and the dosages of the medications or how long you've been taking them. You might remember it's a green pill but that doesn't help much. What if you were asked the date of your last tetanus shot? Would you remember the dates of your child's childhood diseases or vaccinations? If you can present that information, you've just taken control of your care."

A 2004 Harris Poll suggested that two out of five adults in the United States keep some type of formulized personal health record, either on paper or electronically. Smith believes recent catastrophes in the news might encourage more people to do so in the future.

" People who've gone through disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, soon realized that they didn't have access to their medical records because these records, which were maintained by their physician or hospital, were destroyed," she said.

" If you knew you could grab this one book that contained pertinent health information and take it with you, your immediate health needs could be addressed."

Smith said a PHR need not be cumbersome. She does not ask her health care providers for copies of every piece of information or their personal notes. She asks only for pertinent information: X-ray reports, test results, surgical reports.

When collecting information for your health records, Smith suggested including:

  • Personal identification, including name, birth date, and social security number
  • People to contact in case of emergency Names, addresses, and phone numbers of your physician, dentist, and other specialists
  • Health insurance information
  • Living wills and advance directives
  • Organ donor authorization
  • A list and dates of significant illnesses and surgeries
  • Current medications and dosages
  • Immunizations and their dates
  • Allergies
  • Important events, dates, and hereditary conditions in your family history
  • A recent physical examination
  • Important tests results
  • Eye and dental records
  • Permission forms for release of information, operations, and other medical procedures

According to Dr Smith:

" Communication between patients and health care providers is not where it should be,"
" Patients are sometimes afraid to question their healthcare providers. They're afraid to have an opinion on how their condition should be treated because they don't feel informed enough to formulate questions. We're hoping that by maintaining a personal health record, patients stay informed and in control."

Source(s): Saint Louis University, Missouri (USA)

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