How to Implement a Computer-Based Personal Health Record

personal health record (PHR) is a health record initiated and maintained by an individual.  It can be in the form of a handwritten health diary, but in today’s information age it is most practical and efficient if it is based on a local computer with functionality allowing the exportation of data to a USB flash drive. Implementing a personal health record (PHR) entails gathering as much information about your past and current health and organizing it in such a way that it can be easily retrievable and reproducible for circumstances that might require its use.

The starting point is to choose a personal health record which will allow you to enter typed information as well as information and official documents such as x-ray reports, laboratory reports and electrocardiograms. Ideally, the program should have a resource to allow you to learn more about your medical condition(s) and should be secure and encrypted with password protection of your personal data. Other desirable features include the ability to store health information about your family members as well as yourself, technical support in using the program, ease of transferring information into it and from it to your health care provider(s) and flexibility in the reproduction of the data. All these factors considered, a local computer-based personal medical records software application is probably the most logical choice.

After choosing a personal medical records software program and installing it on your computer the next step involves locating and gathering all the paper documents you may have in your home or elsewhere containing information about your health. These documents can include immunization records, prescription drug labels, prescription receipts, written instructions from your doctor(s), notes taken by you during doctor visits, office records you may have from your current or previous physician(s), hospital bills, prescription receipts, and copies of superbills from your doctor(s).

Once you have gathered as much information as possible pertaining to your health it should then be entered into the appropriate sections and subsections of the personal health record. The basic informational entry process will require typing, but if you want to include actual official reports such as x-rays, laboratory tests, or electrocardiograms, those documents can be scanned, then copied and pasted into your PHR. If you are fairly technical and want to have some fun creating your personal health record dictating the information using one of the speech recognition software programs such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking or ViaVoice is an alternative which is also more efficient than typing. If you do not want to buy a speech- recognition software program and you have one that came with your computer this would be a good time to learn to use it. If you are even more technical and want to be even more efficient in implementing your personal health record you can dictate your health information into a digital recorder, transcribe it through the voice editor software program that comes with the digital recorder into a word processor program such as Microsoft Word or one that comes with the speech recognition program, then copy and paste it into your PHR. The latter method allows you to document information for entry into your health record in real time, such as when you come across stored records in your home or if you dictate notes during doctor visits.

After you have entered as much health-related information about yourself as you have available, then fully explore the personal health record program, going through all the tabs and sub tabs to see if there is any other information you can retrieve and enter at a later date. You might need to obtain some of this information from your health care provider(s), but since it is not yet commonplace for patients to share the responsibility of maintaining a health record it might be necessary for you to explain to your doctor(s) the benefits of having a personal health record, so as to ease any possible concerns of you being litigious. Also, begin making journal entries regarding new symptoms or developments that need to be discussed during impending doctor encounters.

Once implemented, the maintenance and updating of your personal health record should motivate you to be more involved in your health care and hopefully improve your health.

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