What are the benefits of a PHR?

Having a PHR can be a lifesaver, literally. In an emergency you can quickly give first responders vital information, such as diseases you're being treated for, medications you take, drug allergies, and contact information for your doctor.

If you see multiple doctors and they don't use the same EHR system, a PHR is a good way to keep all of your health information in one place.

A PHR also empowers you to manage your health between visits. For example, a PHR enables you to:

  • Track and assess your health. Record and track your progress toward your health goals, such as lowering your cholesterol level.
  • Make the most of doctor visits. Be ready with questions for your doctor and information you want to share, such as blood pressure readings since your last visit.
  • Manage your health between visits. Upload and analyze data from home-monitoring devices such as a blood pressure cuff. And remind yourself of your doctor's instructions from your last appointment.
  • Get organized. Track appointments, vaccinations, and preventive or screening services, such as mammograms. In fact, one study found that when parents used personal health records for their children, the children were more likely to get their preventive well-child checkups on time.

Are there drawbacks to PHRs?

Building a complete health record takes some time. You have to collect and enter all your health information. Only a minority of doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and insurance companies can send information electronically to a PHR that isn't part of a patient portal.

In most cases, you will have to update your PHR manually each time you see the doctor, fill a prescription, have a test or go to the hospital.

Even if you use a patient portal, you still need to review the information that's added to it. The process of transferring health data electronically isn't always perfect and mistakes can happen.

Will my information be kept private?

Perhaps the most common concerns about PHRs are about privacy and security. To address these issues, reputable PHR systems follow industry best practices, such as making their privacy policies public and submitting to monitoring by independent organizations. In addition, federal laws have been put in place to protect the security of personal health information.

How do I get started?

If your primary care doctor offers a patient portal, use it. The staff at the front desk should be able to tell you how to register for it. (If your doctor doesn't offer one, ask if one will be available in the future.) Then start taking advantage of its features. Most portals offer the following:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Medication list
  • Appointment summaries, sometimes with associated educational material
  • Secure messaging with your provider
  • Test results
July 06, 2017 See more In-depth