The Importance of Having a Personal Health Record
As we grow older, even if we are fortunate to age without significant medical problems, our health becomes more and more of a concern. It’s always a good move to keep track of our medical history, so we have it when we need treatment or have to go to the doctor. What’s a good way to do this? Have your own Personal Health Record or “PHR” handy.
What is a Personal Health Record (PHR) and why do you need it?
A PHR is essentially a list of your medical information, treatments you have received, illnesses for which you have been hospitalized, allergies and other pertinent information.
Aside from being a medical history, a PHR is a good source of information for when you need treatment or hospitalization in the event of an emergency and when you are taken to a hospital that does not have your records. Your PHR will become especially useful when there is no one at hand who can reliably or accurately provide your medical history for first responders or doctors. It’s also a great tool to help you prepare for your doctor appointments.
What should your PHR contain?
A good personal health record should have the following information:
- Basic information about you – your birthdate, height, weight and blood type
- Your allergies including food, drugs, animals or objects that trigger adverse reactions
- Your chronic health problems
- A list of major medical procedures you have undergone like surgeries, etcetera and when these were carried out
- A list of hospitalizations, the reasons for hospitalization and the dates
- A list of laboratory/screening tests you have taken and the results
- The contact numbers of your primary care provider as well as the doctors and specialists you have seen over the years; a PHR should include contact information for your dentist, eye doctor, physical therapist or other healthcare specialists you have dealt with
- Contact number for your family or relatives, particularly the person who is your healthcare power of attorney
Remember not to overload your PHR with information. If you are still not sure what to include or omit you can always ask your doctor or healthcare service provider.
Assembling your PHR
Before setting out to create your own PHR from scratch, first ask the hospital where you have regularly been treated (or hospitals, if that is the case) if they have your records, and if they have a program that can help you compile your information for a PHR.
It’s interesting that some hospitals require you to file a document request for the release of the information you want. They might also charge for copying the documents and mailing them to you.
Hospitals are not the only source for information for your PHR, family members and relatives are also a rich source of material, especially where chronic diseases, allergies or family history of illnesses are concerned.
Once you have the data required, it can be put into a folder or envelope. We’ve found that a three-ring binder works best. Binders are easier to leaf through and don’t have the risk of casual misplacement or of the pages falling out. Consider making a binder for each member of the family, accordingly labeled and color-coded. Or you might simply subdivide one binder into sections for each member of the family.
Keep the binder or binders somewhere they can easily be found, like on the top row of a bookshelf. It’s very helpful if the binder is labeled on the outside.
When you have the time, also have all the data digitally encoded. After making sure that all the data is correct, have the document converted to .PDF format to prevent tampering. The benefits of having your information encoded digitally will come in handy sooner or later.