Monday, May 7, 2007

Your Health Information at your Fingertips

Your Health Information at Your Fingertips

By Nancy Finn

I was recently hospitalized. Fortunately for me, I did not have to go through the emergency department but was admitted directly to a room. When I arrived at my destination, a nurse assigned to my case sat down with me to go over my medical history and medications. Much to her surprise I provided her with my personal health record (PHR) that I had entered several months earlier on the IHealth Record web site

With my health information, gathered and residing in one place, my nurse was able to complete our interview quickly and efficiently. She was assured that the information was accurate since I kept my health record constantly updated. It included information on the illnesses I had contracted; my family medical history, medical proxy, and most important my medications and allergies to medications and food.

The nurse had never seen anything like this and was clearly impressed. Although I was in a hospital that had my electronic medical record on file, so there was online access to much of this information, my PHR had updated data that was not in the hospital EMR. Since I see many different providers who are both within and outside the hospital network the onus falls on me to be sure that all of my healthcare information is current and accurate.

Had I been admitted to a hospital that did not have my medical record, there would have been no way of knowing anything about my health history without this PHR. It is scary to contemplate having to recall all of my medical information at a time when I am ill and not at my best.

In a prior blog post: "How Personal Health Records Could Save Your Life," I talk about why it is imperative that you create a PHR. Now I stand before you as a living example of its use and importance.

So how can you get this accomplished? Assuming you have access to the Internet, there are many web sites that where you can develop a PHR in a secure environment. Many health plans are also urging their members to create a PHR and offer the tools to do so. And as a last resort you can create a personal health record the old fashioned way on paper. However, paper records are difficult to update; so if you can, opt for the online version.

You never know when you might have to go into the hospital. I certainly did not plan this hospital visit, - it was totally unexpected. If you have a PHR readily available, it becomes one more step in protecting your most valuable asset – your health and wellbeing.

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