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EHR/PHR Basics

A man looking at his health records on the computer

There are still many unanswered questions in the field of Electronic Health Records.
Photo: iStock

A Sample Health Record

You've probably seen the records and charts your doctor keeps on your health many times. You may have records with several doctors, or at one or more hospitals where you've been treated. You can create a simple version for yourself: a single, easily accessible list of your basic information. Keeping such a list is a good idea—for yourself, your loved ones, and caregivers.
It's as easy as 1, 2, 3 … Start with your:

  1. Name, birth date, blood type
  2. Emergency contact(s)
  3. Primary caregiver/phone number
  4. Medicines, dosages, and how long taken
  5. Allergies/allergic reactions
  6. Date of last physical
  7. Dates/results of tests and screenings
  8. Major illnesses/surgeries and their dates
  9. Chronic diseases
  10. Family illness history

Health Records—What's In a Name?

Health records are undergoing many changes, and the variety of names can be confusing.

With a personal health record (PHR), you control who can see or use the information in it. You may have a personal health record on paper, or you may have it in electronic form. An electronic personal health record is often stored on a Web site. Other people, such as your doctor, may be able to add information to it.

With an electronic health record (EHR) or electronic medical record (EMR), your doctor (or hospital) controls the information. Your Electronic Health Records may be stored at a doctor's office, a hospital, an insurance company, or an employer.

Electronic Health Records—Are They Secure?

Many people wonder whether their health information is kept private and secure in an electronic health record system.

In an electronic health record, your information is protected from being viewed without your consent or authorization because of the security technology used by the companies that offer them, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Some of the organizations that provide Electronic Health Records include health plans and providers. Health plans and most health-care providers are required to give you a Notice of Privacy Practices, which tells you how they keep any of your personal information private and safe, including when it is maintained in an electronic system. If you don't remember seeing the privacy notice, you should ask the health plan or provider for a copy, or check the Web site of your provider.

For information related to protection of patient records, filing a privacy complaint, or other questions, visit the HHS site:

Summer 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 3 Page 17