WHAT is a PERSONAL HEALTH RECORD (PHR)?
Personal health records (PHR) are self-maintained online repositories containing various medical and clinical data of one patient, actively recorded by the patient himself or the caretaker and or family members. People might question why PHRs are needed when you have an EHR maintained by your doctors and healthcare professionals, but my question is; why not?
It is true that healthcare providers are responsible for diagnosis and treatment of patients, but once the patient leaves the hospital or healthcare provider, the responsibility of taking care of one’s health lies in the hands of the patient or caregivers. For decades medical records have been kept in a folder at the doctor’s office, containing all the healthcare history of the patient, not accessible or maintained by the patient or the caregiver.
Even with the advent of digital healthcare files, all the information is spread across various hospitals and healthcare systems which potentially impedes the patient’s optimal care. So, as patients we end up keeping a folder with as much medical information as we must physically share with our doctors when asked for or needed. The best way to collect, maintain and share this medical information is to have PHR. PHRs acts as a single centralized location to house the patient’s entire healthcare file.
To make the case for PHRs let’s look at a mental illness patient. Patients that are undergoing mental illness treatments are good examples of why PHRs can really benefit patients and the healthcare system. A visit with a therapist or a psychologist tends to result in a multitude of patient data related to the patient’s feelings and behavioural patterns. Once the patient has completed their visit with the doctor, it is the doctor or clinician’s responsibility to record the patient’s feelings to be able to analyze changes and make treatment decisions including medication and hospital admission. If this data is recorded daily by the patient in a PHR and shared with the doctor, they will have a fuller understanding of the patient and their progress.
When a patient falls unconscious suddenly and is taken to the emergency room, doctors can treat the patient better based on the medical records shared via PHR than being clueless about the patient’s medical history.
There are two types of data that can be stored in a PHR.
|1||Subjective Data||Data maintained based on emotion, intuition, feelings, etc||Mental illness, Side effects of medicine, etc|
|2||Objective Data||Data maintained based on facts or true condition||Blood pressure, Weight, Sugar level, lab test|
BENEFITS OF USING A PERSONAL HEALTH RECORD (PHR)
To decide on the above questions, we need to understand the benefits of Personal Health Records.
- Centralized location: PHR helps patient’s maintain, store, access healthcare information in a centralized and secure location. Prescriptions, vaccinations, allergies, even doctor visits are recorded in a PHR which can be accessed whenever required. Records from all health providers are stored in a safe and secure place.
- Accessible Anywhere: PHRs can be made to be accessed by family members who do not live close to one other. E.g. You and your father stay in different cities or countries, and your father has a chronic disease that needs to be monitored. You might want to access your father’s clinical records to reconfirm his health treatment with the doctor in another city or another country. Maintaining a PHR may help here as you can access it from anywhere with all the available lab test results and information for another doctor to opine.
- Patient Engagement: What happens after the doctor’s visit is just as important as what happened during the visit. The major responsibility of taking care of our health is in our own hands. This is not something new, but with PHRs it gives us the ability to control and share the health data with whomever we feel might be able to give us improved quality of care.
- Improves communication: Patients with chronic disease can easily communicate with their providers even when the slightest change occurs in their health. Collaborative disease tracking removes the communication barrier currently existing between patients and providers.
- Better decisions by clinicians: Even with the detail that is contained in the EHR, clinicians can get more information about patients via a more comprehensive PHR which leads to better decision making. PHRs act as the perfect channel for improved sharing of information between patient and healthcare providers.
- Lower costs: One of the benefits of a PHR is lower chronic disease management costs, medication costs, wellbeing program costs, etc. Doctor’s can see the full medical treatment of a patient and know what another doctor is prescribing and their treatment plans. Everyone is on the same page.
- Improve care quality: When patients take an active role in the care of their own health eventually one will start seeing the benefits. PHRs gives patient’s the opportunity to be more involved with your health which leads to improved care quality. It is easier for caregivers to provide better support and care with the knowledge of the entire health file at their fingertips.
- Easier health claims: Apart from healthcare records, all health insurance claims and healthcare bills/invoice can be stored in a PHR. PHR makes it easier to settle bills and insurance claims as everything is stored in one location.
Even though we are not currently seeing a high adoption rate in the use of PHRs, but we are sure in the coming years there will be a change. The lack of knowledge and use are two reasons there is low acceptance of the PHR. Once people understand the benefits of a PHR and it becomes easy to use, the awareness will grow, people will actively take interest in PHRs and take more responsibility towards their health. The key note is “It’s your health and you need to take charge of it.”