7 Reasons to Have a Personal Health
A digital personal health record
(PHR) is a computer-based software application that allows you to store a variety of personal health information
including illnesses, hospitalizations, encounters (i.e. visits and communications), journal information in between
doctor visits, medications, allergies, immunizations, surgeries, lab results, and family history. The personal
health record differs from an electronic medical record which is a similar application with much more
all-encompassing features used by healthcare providers such as scheduling and insurance billing, in addition to the
storage of patient health data. Owning and maintaining an up-to-date digital personal health record has many
benefits and is the cornerstone of proactive healthcare involvement and better healthcare
One of the
chief reasons to have your health data stored electronically is it improves the quality of healthcare you
receive by enabling you to be better prepared for doctor visits, equipped with the accurate and relevant
information that your doctor needs to pursue an optimal treatment course. Because that vital data can then be
conveyed to your doctor more efficiently, more time can be spent during the visit focusing on diagnosing and
treating as opposed to gathering information. The latter fact is of paramount importance given the fact that
healthcare providers in general have busier schedules and less time to spend with individual
A digital PHR
also ensures the availability of your health information in a legible form and facilitates the flow of that
information between your and healthcare provider(s) whether only one physician is treating you or several
doctors are participating in your care. Information in the record can be conveyed to your health-care
provider(s) verbally, in print out form, digitally on an external medium such as a flash drive, and in some
cases via the Internet prior to office visits. This ease of transfer of medical data is vitally important
considering the fact that 18% of medical errors are due to inadequate availability of patient information.
Moreover, medical records are frequently lost, doctors retire, hospitals or HMOs purges old records to save
storage space, and employers frequently change group health insurance plans resulting in patients needing to
change doctors and request transfer medical records which are sometimes illegible. Despite efforts on the part
of the government to encourage doctors to keep medical records on a computer, i.e. utilize electronic medical
records (EMRs) also called electronic health records (EHRs) in order to reduce errors, the fact of the matter is
only 5% of doctors keep medical records on the computer and many that have purchased EMRs have never effectively
implemented them or continued to use them in their practices.
compelling reason to have an updated personal health record is it could save your life. The Center for Disease
Control on its annual list of leading cause of death included medical airs which was listed six ahead of
diabetes and pneumonia. Approximately 120,000 Americans die each year as a result of preventable medical errors
in hospitals, and who knows what the total is including patients treated outside of the hospital. Equally daunting is the fact that most emergency rooms cannot adequately
retrieve your critical health information in a time of emergency.
reason to have a PHR is to reduce your healthcare expenses. Doctors generally use subjective and objective
information about you in arriving at a diagnosis and treatment plan. Subjective data is that information which can be expressed by you such as your
symptoms, and objective data is that information which can be measured and recorded, such as physical exam
findings, x-ray reports and laboratory test results. Many diagnoses and treatment decisions can be based in
large part on subjective information obtained from the patient or patient’s family, but if sufficient and
appropriate subjective data cannot be obtained healthcare provider tend to rely more on objective data including
x-rays and lab tests which result in higher treatment costs. X-rays and laboratory tests are oftentimes
performed unnecessarily because they were recently performed but the patient did not know the results or did not
even know they were performed, fueling the flames of rising healthcare costs.
reason you need your personal health information stored in a computer desktop-based application is to ensure the
privacy of your information. There are online repositories that will store your health record, but there are
definite concerns regarding privacy and the security of your data. By using a computer-based application to
store all-important data about your health, you can ensure that the information remains private and secure. If
you feel the need for greater security of the data within your computer or that which has been exported to a
flash drive, there are affordably priced folder protection software programs which will protect the data by
requiring a login. Alternatively, there are also biometric fingerprint reading devices which can be installed on
your computer allowing login with a finger swipe.
reason you should have a computer-based record of your health information is the fact that maintaining a health
record is a shared responsibility between the health-care provider and the health-care consumer. If you doubt
that, try filling out a health insurance application without recorded health information to refer to.
have relied upon their healthcare providers to know everything about them and to record that information, but in
today's era of change and looming healthcare reform, that cruise control approach is rapidly coming to a
screeching halt. Just as taxpayers are held accountable for knowing and verifying the information they submit or
the information that is submitted for them on their tax returns, healthcare consumers are going to be held more
accountable for knowing and verifying what is in their medical record. This will be readily apparent if you are
ever audited by the Internal Revenue Service or if you have health insurance benefits excluded after your policy
has gone into effect because of pre-existing conditions which were not recorded in the insurance application
questionnaire at the time of filing.
The seventh reason to have a digital personal health record is to enhance your doctor/patient rapport and engender
mutual appreciation. I can recall those patients who were well-prepared with organized, relevant quality
information to provide during their patient encounters and the delight I had in treating them. That type of
encounter makes the practice of medicine much more fun and mutually beneficial. On the other hand, the patient, by
seeking and obtaining a better understanding of my diagnostic and treatment course developed a greater appreciation
for me and my efforts. I trust that your experience will be the same.
by Victor E. Battles - July 26, 2009
With more than 20 years experience treating and evaluating patients I recognize the importance of patients having a
good working knowledge of their personal health information, but
realize that many times that knowledge is lacking.
For a solution to bridge the gap between what you should know and what you do know about you health record