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How could keeping a PHR be similar to gardening?
Tuesday, June 09, 2009 | Margaret Hennings

Planting the seeds of knowledge for care now and in the future.

It is estimated that 50 million Americans provide care to a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member. If you or someone you know is one of these caregivers then you know how complex and exhausting being a caregiver can be. 

When you garden, you gather all of the necessary information before you plant flowers, herbs or vegetables. You need the right soil, the right moisture, the right fertilizer, and you need to keep the weeds down. 

When you are caring for someone, you also need tools. You need to keep track of doctors’ names, appointments, medications, surgeries for yourself and for anyone else you are caring for. This can be complicated, depending on how much help you receive. But add in the complexities of care for one or more additional family members who are ill and you may quickly become overwhelmed.

You may begin to wonder if there’s an easier way to cope with the situation. You may also ask yourself, “What can I do to keep track of all these details?”

I want to tell you there is an easier way! There is a way to organize all of the necessary information in one place. There’s also a way for you to remove some of the frustration and feel more in control.

As you build your garden (by learning about the various plants, compiling information on when to prune, transplant, or knowing how far apart they should be spaced) you can create a source of knowledge to keep track of what you have learned.

In a similar way, you can create and maintain a Personal Health Record (PHR) for yourself and the family members you care for. PHRs offer a way to create a source of knowledge for you to share with others who assist in that care, and they also create a history for you and your family. 

What exactly is a PHR? It is a collection of the personal health information complied and maintained by the patient. It organizes all the information from your doctors, clinics, and hospital visits into one place. 

How can a PHR help me or my family? Why would I want to take the time to gather all this information? 

A PHR has many useful purposes. A PHR can help you keep track of physician information such as phone numbers, appointment dates, specialty, etc.  It can contain pharmacy information such as phone numbers, prescription number, refill dates, etc.  It contains a medication list including dosage and times taken, last refill, when a dosage was changed and why.  It will include all allergies and reactions to prescription medications, over the counter medicines, vitamins or substances (i.e latex).

It should also include dates and results of lab tests, X-rays, MRIs, and CTs. Additionally, a PHR can remind you of recurring tests, such as quarterly labs.  It can show you whether the tests require fasting as well as any preparation needed for testing, such as discontinuing meds 24 hours before testing.

When gardeners find a flower or plant that grows well and becomes a favorite, they want to share it with others. 

A PHR can be a way to compile your family history and share it with other members of your family.  If your family is like mine, they don't really talk about our health.  It wasn't until I was in my late 30's and early 40's that I found out about health problems my grandparents had.  I was only informed of their health problems after I developed similar symptoms.  Had I known about them earlier, I could have made changes in my diet or exercise regimen that may have prevented or at least delayed the development of the conditions.

As a mother and a grandmother, I am recording as much history in my PHR as I can. I am also sharing this information with my children so they can make changes in their diet and lifestyles to help them have a healthier life. 

I will also be encouraging my family to create their own PHR for themselves and their families.

Next week, I will tell you how to get started, but in the meantime, visit and search My personal health record to find out more information on PHRs.

Tags   personalhealthrecord, phr, medication, caregivers

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


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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