Personal health record: A tool for managing your health

An electronic personal health record makes it easy to gather and manage your medical information in one accessible and secure location.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you're like most people, you have a number of health concerns and may visit multiple doctors and pharmacies. Keeping track of it all can be a challenge. With a personal health record, you can gather — and manage — all that information in one easily accessible location.

What is a personal health record?

A personal health record is simply a collection of information about your health. If you have a shot record or a box of medical papers, you already have a basic personal health record. And you've probably encountered the big drawback of paper records: You rarely have them with you when you need them.

Electronic personal health record systems remedy that problem by making your personal health record accessible to you anytime via a Web-enabled device, such as your computer, phone or tablet.

Personal health records are not the same as electronic health records or electronic medical records, which are owned and operated by doctors' offices, hospitals or health insurance plans. There are a growing number of doctors' offices using these systems, and while some practices may limit your access, many allow their patients to access and print their records at any time. Check with your doctor to find out what his or her practice's policies are regarding electronic health records.

What information goes into a personal health record?

You decide what you put in your personal health record. In general, though, it needs to include anything that helps you and your health care providers manage your health — starting with the basics:

  • Your primary care doctor's name and phone number
  • Allergies, including drug allergies
  • Your medications, including dosages
  • Chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure
  • Major surgeries, with dates
  • Living will or advance directives
  • Family history
  • Immunization history

You can also add information about what you're doing to prevent disease, such as:

  • Results of screening tests
  • Cholesterol level and blood pressure
  • Exercise and dietary habits
  • Health goals, such as stopping smoking or losing weight

What are the benefits of a personal health record?

Having a personal health record can be a lifesaver, literally. In an emergency you can quickly give emergency personnel vital information, such as a disease you're being treated for, previous surgeries or hospitalizations, medications you take, drug allergies, and how to contact your family doctor.

A personal health record not only allows you to share information with your care providers but also empowers you to manage your health between visits. For example, a personal health record 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, a recent 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.
Jun. 25, 2014 See more In-depth