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How to Create a Personal Health Record



We encourage you to begin tracking your health information in whatever format works best for you, even if the choice is paper. However, if you plan to share information in your PHR with various healthcare providers, we recommend using digital media or a software format. It will be easier to format your information quickly, accurately and securely regardless of which or how many healthcare providers need to access it.

PHR information should always be stored in a secure manner just as you would store other confidential personal information such as financial information. Our health information experts discuss the benefits and risks involved in selecting the appropriate PHR.

Once you’ve gathered your health information, there are a few different ways you can maintain your PHR:

  • Simply place it in a file folder
  • Transfer the information to a USB drive
  • Subscribe to a Web-based service that allows you to access and enter your health information anytime into their online tools from your computer

You can create your own PHR, or may be offered one by a variety of sources, such as:

  • Healthcare providers
  • Insurers
  • Employers
  • Commercial suppliers of PHRs

Some of these tools are free, and for others you may have to pay a fee or subscription. Each supplier has different policies and practices for using the data they store for the individual. There are some important questions to consider when placing your health information online, so review the policies and procedures carefully to make sure you understand how your personal health information will be used and protected.

Policies to look for include:

  • Privacy and security
  • Your ability, or those you authorize, to access their information
  • Control over accessibility by others

If the PHR contains the same information that the doctor has seen, it has more usefulness for tracking purposes than information from insurance forms. For example, insurance claims information may list the diagnosis or medication but not the details (for example, actual blood pressure reading or dose of the medication taken).

Your doctor may use electronic health records, and offer a Web portal or patient gateway that allows you to view and track some of your health information via the Internet. You may also be able to e-mail your doctor, schedule appointments, or get a prescription refilled through the Internet. This is a great start to giving you access to your information, but it is not your complete personal health record. You’ll still need to be proactive to collect the information you need.

A wide range of products are currently available to help you create your own personal health record (PHR). PHRs are an inevitable and critical step in the evolution of health information management (HIM). The book, “The Personal Health Record” assists new users of PHRs in getting started, addressing current PHR trends and processes.

AHIMA does not sell or endorse any PHR products, but we’ve compiled a list of PHR tools and resources for your review. You’ll need to research your PHR options and decide which method is best for you.

Once you’ve gathered the information you’re seeking, there are a few different ways you can maintain your PHR:
  • Simply gather your information and place it in a file folder
  • Transfer the information to a Password Protected USB drive or Flash drive that plugs into most computers
  • Subscribe to a Web-based service that allows you to access and enter your health information anytime into their online tools from your computer

Some of these tools are free, and for others you may have to pay a fee or subscription.

  • Personal identification, including name and birth date
  • People to contact in case of emergency
  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of your physician, dentist, and specialists
  • Health insurance information
  • Living wills, advance directives, or medical power of attorney
  • Organ donor authorization
  • A list and dates of significant illnesses and surgical procedures
  • Current medications and dosages
  • Immunizations and their dates
  • Allergies or sensitivities to drugs or materials, such as latex
  • Important events, dates, and hereditary conditions in your family history
  • Results from a recent physical examination
  • Opinions of specialists
  • Important tests results; eye and dental records
  • Correspondence between you and your provider(s)
  • Current educational materials (or appropriate web links) relating to your health
  • Any information you want to include about your health – such as your exercise regimen, any herbal medications you take and any counseling you may receive
  • Dietary practices, such as whether you are vegetarian, or on a temporary diet; especially if changes in your diet have produced changes in your health in the past