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Seniors blog

Why a Personal Health Record is a Gift to your Family
Wednesday, August 05, 2009 | Heidi Shaffer

My mother is close to celebrating her 90th birthday. Up until 8 years ago, she led a very active on-the-go life, traveling from one part of the country to another, visiting her four children as often as possible.  We took her apparent good health for granted, especially since the four of us are healthy as well.

Then a routine physical exam found a small lump in her breast. It was biopsied and found to be in situ carcinoma, a well contained malignancy that was successfully removed.  Shortly after that, the doctors identified a problem with her heart rhythm, and after testing she was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a condition for which she remains on blood-thinning medication to this day.  Suddenly the questions we always answered “no” to on our own health questionnaires and insurance applications, “Do you have a family history of cancer or heart disease?” took on new meaning.  How far back, we wondered, did this family history go?  What about grandparents and aunts and uncles?

According to a Wall Street Journal June 11, 2009 article, “The Life-Saving Secrets in Your Family Tree,”  researchers are paying close attention to the role of family medical history.  In the same article, David Goldstein, professor of genetics at Duke University is quoted as saying “For most common diseases, it’s more informative to work out your family history” than get a genetic profile.

So we sat down with my mother and started to gather as much family medical history as possible, which we faithfully wrote down, consulting with aunts and uncles and cousins when needed to be as accurate as possible in recalling past medical episodes and events.  Mother also agreed to request a copy of her own medical record at her very next doctor visit, and she continues to do so every time she visits her doctors, ophthalmologist, and dentist.  Her personal health record continues to grow.

We four siblings have all married, and now our children are having children.  Three generations are now better informed about our family medical history, and benefitting by being more proactive in our own healthcare.  What a gift to give to one’s great grandchildren!

Tags   personalhealthrecord, phr, healthinformation, familyhistory, medicalhistory

About This Blog

PHRs are still fairly new to the healthcare system, and we understand that as healthcare consumers, you have questions about the benefits and risks of keeping a PHR. For this reason, we provide a communication forum – the Seniors’ Blog – to connect you with health information management professionals for tips and advice on creating and maintaining your own PHR. This section of also provides resources and educational material about PHRs to answer some of your questions and help you determine if a PHR is right for you.

Blog Contributors

Marsha Dolan, Valerie Watzlaf, Cindy Boester, Heidi Shaffer, Julie Wolter, Margaret Hennings, Colleen Goethals, Vera Rulon, Leah Grebner, Robert Caban, Mynilma Olivera-Vazquez, Amanda Bushey, Margie Kelly, Donna DuLong, Sarah Dietze, Valisha McFarlane, Maria Kovell, Ted Eytan, Leann Reynolds, Laura Heuer, Kristin Stewart, Derek Allen, Chris Matthies, Margo Corbett, Craig Newmark, Sarah Buelterman, Skyler Tanner, Aniruddha Malpani, Joan Malling, Marilyn McFarlane, Megan Rooney, Patrick Rhone, Dr. Carrie Nelson, Maria Bouselli, Erin Jordan


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