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Why You Should Always Have a Copy of Your Personal Health Record


thumbnail The truth is, what doctors don’t know can hurt you.

Consider what would happen if you were taken to an emergency room and you have an allergy to penicillin and a doctor prescribed it. Or, you have other complications that physicians need to know about, and unaware, they proceed with treatment that is life-threatening to you.

This happens. It happens a lot, in fact. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S, according to the Washington Post. In addition, researchers have found that medical errors in the U.S. are estimated to harm at least 1.5 million patients per year, with about 400,000 of them being preventable.

So, if information is power, why not take matters into your own hands? Why not be the guardian of your own medical information? That’s what a personal health record (PHR) is. Personal, and yours.

You can share it, of course, and you can add information that your doctors give to you.

The federal government advises all patients to keep a PHR, or electronic application, “to manage their health information in a private, secure, and confidential environment.”

A PHR can include information from a variety of sources, including healthcare providers and patients themselves, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

You are the best curator of your own medical information

Nowadays, it would be rare in America to find a doctor who uses paper records anymore. Most use electronic health records (EHRs), in addition to a patient portal to allow patients to access some of their record.

But have you noticed that if you go to a different doctor, that doctor can’t access the records of the other? The two EHRs can’t talk to each other–or as techies say–the records aren’t interoperable.

This makes exchanging your information very difficult—and it also leaves you at risk because one doctor doesn’t know what the other doctor did. Federal agencies and all the best technological minds have been trying to tackle the problem of interoperability for the past ten years, but still most EHRs can’t talk to each other.

There is a bit of good news, however. Researchers are making headway on a way for apps to talk to EHRs. This is ideal because you can store your medical information on your phone and exchange it with your doctor, or doctors. Or, in the case of an emergency, an ER clinician could access your information on your phone.

Many people say, we need to have a way to have one medical record for each person. This would help prevent errors. But who is the best custodian of that information? As of now, the only person who is interested enough in gathering the information, keeping it up to date and sharing it, is you.

It’s time to take action and get started on your PHR. Need help finding a good PHR? For a list of PHR reviews, check this out. Keeping a PHR will help to get you more involved in your own healthcare, and isn’t it about time?

092016-diana_manos-photo Diana Manos is a seasoned journalist who has been covering healthcare policy issues in Washington, DC for newspapers, magazines and trade publications for twenty years, with the past ten focusing mainly on health IT. She was senior editor at HIMSS Media from 2006-2014, writing daily for healthcare executives and chief information officers in Healthcare IT News and Government Health IT. Today, she has a successful freelance writing business, with stories published regularly in Health Data Management, Healthcare IT News and Meritalk. She is a thought leader on healthcare issues with an avid Twitter following (@Diana_Manos). Diana covers everything of vital interest to physicians, patients and healthcare industry stakeholders, keeping close ties with other thought leaders, experts and policymakers on a weekly basis. Her ability to spot healthcare policy trends and her deep understanding of the regulatory issues faced by physicians and hospitals gives her stories a wide reach. Diana’s healthcare stories have appeared in the Washington Post, Health Leaders magazine, Hospitals and Health Networks magazine and more. She has been the recipient of several writing awards including the Jesse H. Neal Award for editorial honors in the field of specialized journalism and the American Society of Business Publication Editors Award. In her personal life, Diana is passionate about patient empowerment, natural healing methods and alternative healthcare.

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