To start your personal health record, you will need to request a copy
of your health records from all of your healthcare providers, including
your general practitioner, plus your eye doctor, dentist, and any other
specialist you have seen.
Don’t feel that you must gather all of your health information at
once. If you like, the next time you visit the doctor, simply ask for
recent records, and do so each time you visit a healthcare provider.
Below are steps for creating a complete personal health record (PHR), but feel free to create your PHR at your own pace.
STEP 1: Contact your doctors’ offices or the health information management (HIM)
or medical records staff at each facility where you have received
treatment. Find out if your provider has his or her own plan for helping
patients to create PHRs. Ask if your records
are in an electronic format that you can access or if you need to
request copies. Also, ask your physician or the HIM
professional to help you determine which parts of your record you need.
If you want medical records kept by your health plan, contact the
organization’s customer service department.
STEP 2: Ask for an “authorization
for the release of information” form. Complete the form and return it to
the facility as directed. Most facilities charge for copies. The fee
can only include the cost of copying (including supplies and labor), as
well as postage if you request the copy to be mailed. It can take up to
60 days to receive your medical records, so ask when you can expect to
receive the information you requested.
STEP 3: Once you’ve gathered the information you are seeking, there are a few different ways to maintain your PHR.
To get started, you can simply gather your information and place it in a
file folder. Since not all information may be available to you in an
electronic format, an old-fashioned file folder or three-ring binder may
be the easiest and most inclusive format for now. You can divide the
binder into sections by family members. Then within each family member’s
section, divide information by year or illness.
STEP 4: There are many great PHR
tools and services to help you get organized. You can transfer
electronic information to a storage device, and carry that with you.
Also, portable devices are available that allow you to carry information
on a USB or flash drive, which plugs into
most computers. Then there are Internet-based services you can access
from your home computer where you can store and retrieve your health
information. Some services can even help you collect the information you
need from your doctors and other healthcare providers.
Some PHR tools are available free of
charge and others are products you purchase or pay a subscription fee to
use. You’ll need to research PHR options and decide which method is best for you.
STEP 5: Bring your PHR
to all visits so you have the information with you and remember to keep
adding and updating it with entries from providers, yourself, or your
STEP 6: Create and carry a card
that has vital information on it—such as medication needs or
allergies—with you at all times. You may not always have your complete PHR with you.
STEP 7: Remember, this is your
private information, so protect it and maintain confidentiality. Let
trusted family members know that you are compiling it, and where you
keep it, but beyond that, keep it safe and protected.