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Quick Guide to Creating a PHR

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 family member.

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.