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Be a Powerful Patient!
Tuesday, December 07, 2010 | Chris Matthies

About two years ago, my husband, Les, began having some puzzling physical symptoms.  He wasn’t feeling particularly ill but decided to see his primary care physician, just in case.  After the routine lab tests came back negative, he was referred to a specialist.  More tests were ordered including an ultrasound and a CT scan of the area in question.  The specialist performed an examination and reported the benign results of the ultrasound.  When Les asked about the CT scan, he was told the scan wasn’t in his file.  Les was asked to make another appointment in six months to follow up on any recurring symptoms.

Les knew to trace the missing CT scan.  After numerous calls to the medical records department of the specialist’s facility, he picked up the hard copy of the CT scan report.  He sat down in the reception room and read the radiologist’s impression:  “probable carcinoma of the ......”  If Les had not known to ask for all lab and imaging reports and READ them, his medical situation could have turned quite serious.  Because Les has become the keeper of his medical information and he considers himself his own best health advocate, he received prompt and excellent medical intervention.  He is doing fine today with an excellent long-term prognosis.

These days, you, the patient, are the common ingredient in the healthcare soup.  You must be the primary source of your medical history to ensure that accurate and current information is shared among your various providers.  If you want to receive the best possible healthcare in today’s environment, you must become your best, most well-informed medical advocate. 

We often keep better records about our financial accounts or our car maintenance procedures than we do about our health events.  We balance our checkbooks monthly.  We record oil changes, tire rotations, mileage and gas consumption.  Like our checkbook and our car maintenance log, a health maintenance log is needed.  It’s time to create and regularly update a personal health record.

Once you have gathered and organized all your medical information in one place you no longer have to rely on your memory when you are admitted to the hospital or see a new doctor.  Your information is current, accurate and readily accessible by you and by others who might be helping you navigate the healthcare system.  Your personal record is now portable and you can make it available to those who need it, when they need it, especially while you’re traveling or during medical emergencies.

My husband’s commitment to be a self-advocate in his health-care journey ensured a good long-term outcome in his medical crisis.  Even though our doctors and their teams do an amazing job of keeping track of all our information things do get missed or lost.  It is up to us, the PATIENT, to make sure the healthcare system works to OUR advantage.  After all, it is our body and our responsibility to take charge of our medical outcomes.  None of us should be content to be a passive patient when interacting with our providers.  By creating a personal health record, we can all become POWERFUL PATIENTS.

Chris Matthies is a dental hygienist and educator. She is the President and Founder of Powerful Patient Solutions, Inc. Visit her website at

Tags   phr, personalhealthrecord, family, healthadvocate

About This Blog

Welcome to the Caregiver’s PHR blog – your connection to health information management professionals and other caregivers managing the healthcare of a loved one. Caregivers can be more prepared for the unpredictable simply by keeping a record of their loved one’s personal health information to present to a healthcare provider when needed. As a caregiver, you can often become overwhelmed with the emotional and physical responsibilities involved in this commitment. Just tracking medications and doctors’ visits can seem nearly impossible at times. A personal health record can help ease your mind. We hope you will visit this blog often to interact with experts in the field to seek advice and tips for best practices in creating and maintaining your loved one’s personal health record and the most effective 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


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