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Seniors blog

Favor Function Over Form When Choosing a PHR
Monday, March 29, 2010 | Kristin Stewart

Let me admit something up front.  I hate to file.

I hate to file so much I have an entire cupboard in my kitchen where I shove old bills, notices and my kids’ schoolwork.  I hate to file so much mountains of paper fall out on the floor every time I open said cupboard.  I hate to file so much I spend three times as long looking for that one document than I would have spent if I had simply put it away properly in the first place.

That’s how much I hate to file.  And yet…

Despite my filing phobia, there is one area I have never even considered not keeping carefully organized and updated - my family’s personal health records.

Admittedly they’re nothing fancy - think manila file folder with each family member’s name written on the tab - but it serves our purposes.  My husband’s latest cholesterol numbers?  Slipped into his file.  My son’s current eyeglass prescription?  In the folder.  And one of the biggies in our life of schools, sports and camps - the childhood immunization record.  Yep, carefully stored in the front of each child’s file.

Until recently I never thought to call these somewhat tattered folders “personal health records” (or PHRs) but that’s exactly what they are.  I have written about their importance for seniors in AARP: The Magazine, for kids (and parents) in Parenting Magazine and even for pets in Dog Fancy and the one thing I’ve learned is there is no one right answer - just one that’s “right for you.”

Some people choose a simple file folder like me, others prefer a binder (often with dividers for easy access) while the techies go for electronic or online versions.  Ultimately form doesn’t matter - it’s function that counts.

Generally speaking, a successful personal health record should include:

* Name and birth date (including year)
* Contacts in case of emergency
* Insurance information (company, policy number and telephone number)
* Specialists, their phone numbers, etc.
* General information such as height, weight, any surgeries or major illnesses, etc.
* An immunization record
* Medications taken, dose amounts, etc.
* Allergy information if applicable
* Copies of old lab reports (for point of comparison), X-rays or any other test results, etc.
* Anything else a doctor might need to know

We’ve been lucky so far with everyone staying fairly healthy and with the exception of staples in one son’s head and a broken wrist for the other, very few trips to the ER.  However, it gives me peace of mind to know I have the personal health records ready to grab and go at any moment if I should need to.  And that makes all the filing worthwhile.

A mother of three, Kristen Stewart is a freelance writer who specializes in health, lifestyle and parenting topics.  To learn more, please visit her website at

Tags   emergency, access, medication, parents, insurance

About This Blog

Parents, welcome to the PHR blog where you can connect and communicate with health information management professionals and eventually other parents about managing your child’s healthcare. Have you ever been on your way to the doctor’s office with your child and wondered about the details – diagnosis, medications prescribed, vaccinations, etc. – of your last visit?

As a parent, you have so many responsibilities that it’s difficult to recall everything from day to day let alone last year. A personal health record can help ease your mind. This blog is a social network where you can interact with experts in the field to seek advice and tips for best practices in creating and maintaining your child’s personal health record and the best ways to use that information to play a more active role in their healthcare and simplify your life.

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


PHRs do more than manage medication. Stay up to date with information that can help you communicate with your doctor and stay out of the hospital.

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