What is a personal health record?

The personal health record (PHR) is an electronic, universally available, lifelong resource of health information needed by individuals to make health decisions. Individuals own and manage the information in the PHR, which comes from healthcare providers and the individual. The PHR is maintained in a secure and private environment, with the individual determining rights of access. The PHR is separate from and does not replace the legal record of any provider.

There are different PHR models in the marketplace. The medium, or type, differs depending on the format -- for instance, paper or electronic, desktop application or internet-based service. PHRs are also influenced by the organization sponsoring them. A PHR's provider may be a hospital, doctor, vendor, employer or insurer.

A personal health record (PHR) is an electronic health data application that helps you collect, manage and share your health information.  It’s a lot like an electronic health record (EHR) -- a digital version of the paper chart in your doctor's office or the hospital -- except you set up and control the information yourself. PHRs may be offered by physicians, hospitals, your insurance company, employer, or a commercial company. You can also create a PHR on your own through other software and online services but you may have to enter in the information yourself. In some cases, doctors and hospitals can send a copy of the health records they keep on you to your PHR.

Much like the EHR, the PHR can be used to collect, track and share your most important health information, such as:

  • emergency contacts
  • allergies
  • illnesses or conditions
  • medications
  • immunization dates
  • lab and test results

Your PHR may also have apps and tools that allow you to interact with your health data and to achieve health goals or improve your ability to manage a health condition.  For example, you may be able to upload information from wireless devices, such as a web-enabled digital scale or pedometer, into the PHR.

Ideally, you should be able to link your PHR with your doctor or hospital's EHR, so the information they keep on file about you can be incorporated into your PHR.Once your health information is in your PHR, you may be able to share all or portions of the PHR with a new doctor –either electronically or by printing a copy of the information from the PHR to bring to your doctor. 

The advantage of a PHR is that it contains information about your health that is collected and maintained by you in one place that is easily accessible to you. Most of what you do for your health occurs outside the doctor's office.You can use your PHR to take an active role in maintaining your own health record. You can include:

  • over-the-counter medications
  • exercise habits
  • sleep patterns

It can even reflect your preferences and values on sensitive issues, such as end-of-life care. It's your record: you know better than anyone else what your record should contain.

A personal health record (PHR) is a tool you can use to compile all of your medical information in one place. You can create a PHR for yourself, each of your family members and anyone else for whom you are responsible. Starting and maintaining a PHR is an easy way for you to convey important facts about your medical history to a new health care provider. It should include your primary care physician’s name and phone number, any allergies you have, including drug allergies, the medications you take along with dosage, surgeries you’ve had, and living will directives.

The PHR also gives you a place to track information such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure readings. This is important information to have if you’re working toward a health goal, such as lowering your cholesterol. It’s also useful for getting a bird’s eye view of how well your treatment is working for any current condition.

The important thing to remember is that a PHR is maintained by you for your use and to share as you choose with health care providers. Ideally you’ll include information from all of your health care providers, including test results.

A PHR is different from a medical record, which is generated every time you see a doctor or seek medical treatment. It contains information about your overall health, medications you’ve taken, results of lab work and tests results. Increasingly doctors and other health care providers are keeping these electronically, called electronic health records (EHR). Your doctor (or hospital) owns and maintains these records, although you have access to most of the information contained in them by requesting and completing an “authorization for the release of information” form.

Much like the electronic health record (EHR), the personal health record (PHR) can also be an electronic storage hub for all your most important health information. It’s possible for you to create your own PHR using consumer-friendly software and online services and use it to improve your own health. Your PHR is all about you; you decide whether to create one in the first place, and if so, what to put in it.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.