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A woman's Facebook PHR saved her life
Monday, February 07, 2011 |

A recent story of how a doctor used information on Facebook to save a woman’s life caused me to wonder how my own personal health record, and of those I care about, would fare in an emergency situation.

The article tells of a woman who arrived at an emergency room in Wisconsin complaining of chest discomfort, and soon slipped into a coma. The woman was a single mother with no family members nearby.

Thanks to the detailed accounts of her health she had posted to her Facebook, and her son’s mention of the account, doctors were able to tap into a wealth of vital knowledge on her health. She had posted her medications, symptoms, hospitalizations and conditions for months. She had dates, times and descriptions of how she felt and what was occurring with her body. As the article points out, this personal chronicle of her health was far more complete than her medical records (wherever they were) could have possibly been. She made a full recovery.

There is no doubt that the immediate demands of this woman’s health depended on her personal health record. The information she kept shaped her doctor’s decisions, in a way that effectively addressed her personal situation.

The article asks, “What does this case tell us about the future of medicine? Like everything in society, social media is having an enormous impact on our personal lives, in ways we never imagined. Everyone self-publishes their own stories.”

Social media can do wonders for our health—mobile apps track medication schedules, online forums connect patients and resources—but the article falls short of crediting what truly saved this woman’s life: her personally kept health record.

This story reminds me how crucial our health information, and that of our loved ones, can unexpectedly become.  It seems well worth the effort to improve our chances for successful health outcomes by being diligent of our personal health. Sometimes, it is our own storytelling that enables the best possible care.