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Senior Citizens Jumping Online to Monitor Personal Health Records

Read all about personal health records below news report , with key links

March 28, 2011 - Senior citizens, for once, are not the age group lagging behind in an online endeavor. A study to measure participation on adopting the use of online personal health records finds those patients aged 65 and older are more likely to get involved than young adults between the ages of 18 and 35.

Despite increasing Internet availability, the 'digital divide' (disparities in access to technology) does exist among primary care patients adopting an online personal health record, according to a report in the March 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"The personal health record (PHR) is an Internet-based set of tools that allows people to access and coordinate their lifelong health information," the authors write as background information in the article. PHRs, sometimes called electronic health records, aim to increase patient access to personal health information. Wide use of PHRs will be difficult to achieve, however, if patients cannot access this information because of a lack of Internet or computer access.

A cross-sectional analysis of personal health record use within a health system in the Northeast United States was conducted by Cyrus K. Yamin, B.S., of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues.

Patients were categorized as adopters (those who activated a PHR account online) and nonadopters (patients who had visited a clinician at a practice offering PHR but did not have a PHR account). A total of 75,056 patients were included, 43 percent of whom had adopted a PHR.


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When compared with white patients, the likelihood of using a PHR was lower among all racial and ethnic minorities, with blacks and Hispanics half as likely as whites to adopt a PHR. Patients living in the highest income-earning households were 14 percent more likely to adopt a PHR than those living in the lowest income-earning households. Among adopters, however, income was not associated with PHR use.

Of the 32,274 adopters, the authors recorded 290,662 log-ins to the personal health record system, and classified 51 percent of users as very low users, logging into the PHR one time or less in the previous two years.

The second-largest group identified were categorized as high users (27 percent) and logged into the system ten or more times.

Patients between the ages of 51 and 65 years composed the majority of the high users group at 41 percent. But, it was somewhat surprising to find that patients older than 65 adopted a PHR to a greater extent than patients between 18 and 35 years of age.

"In this study, we found the presence of a digital divide in a diverse population. Specifically, racial/ethnic minorities and patients with lower socioeconomic status were less likely to adopt a PHR. However, both of these groups used the PHR as much as other groups if they were able to adopt it.

“Whether the digital divide was caused by barriers in access to technology or reflects long-standing disparities in health-seeking behavior is less clear. Further studies are needed to better understand and promote use of PHRs among adopters and to design interventions to increase PHR uptake among populations likely to benefit most," the authors conclude.

Funding for this study was provided by Partners HealthCare Information Systems Research Council.

Individuals can create their own PHR, or may be offered one by a variety of sources, such as a healthcare provider, insurer, employer or a commercial supplier of PHRs, according to the American Health Information Management Association. The AHIMA is a national non-profit association, founded in 1928 and dedicated to the effective management of personal health information needed to deliver quality healthcare.

“Each supplier has different policies and practices regarding how they may use data they store for the individual. Study 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; the ability of the individual, or those they authorize, to access their information; and control over accessibility by others,” according to AHIMA.

What is a Personal Health Record (PHR)?

By the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)

The PHR is a tool that you can use to collect, track and share past and current information about your health or the health of someone in your care. Sometimes this information can save you the money and inconvenience of repeating routine medical tests. Even when routine procedures do need to be repeated, your PHR can give medical care providers more insight into your personal health story.

Remember, you are ultimately responsible for making decisions about your health. A PHR can help you accomplish that.

Important points to know about a Personal Health Record:

   ●  You should always have access to your complete health information.

   ●  Information in your PHR should be accurate, reliable, and complete.

   ●  You should have control over how your health information is accessed, used, and disclosed.

   ●  A PHR may be separate from and does not normally replace the legal medical record of any provider.

Medical records and your personal health record (PHR) are not the same thing. Medical records contain information about your health compiled and maintained by each of your healthcare providers. A PHR is information about your health compiled and maintained by you. The difference is in how you use your PHR to improve the quality of your healthcare.

Take an active role in monitoring your health and healthcare by creating your own PHR. PHRs are an inevitable and critical step in the evolution of health information management (HIM). The book “Personal Health Record” assists new users of PHRs in getting started, addressing current PHR trends and processes.

What Does Your PHR Contain?

The specific content of your health record depends on the type of healthcare you have received. Listed below are documents common to most health records and additional documents that accompany hospital stays or surgery.

Reports Common to Most Health Records:

  ● Identification Sheet – A form originated at the time of registration or admission. This form lists your name, address, telephone number, insurance, and policy number.

  ● Problem List – A list of significant illnesses and operations.

  ● Medication Record – A list of medicines prescribed or given to you.

  ● History and Physical – A document that describes any major illnesses and surgeries you have had, any significant family history of disease, your health habits, and current medications. It also states what the physician found when he or she examined you.

  ● Progress Notes – Notes made by the doctors, nurses, therapists, and social workers caring for you that reflect your response to treatment, their observations and plans for continued treatment.

  ● Consultation – An opinion about your condition made by a physician other than your primary care physician. Sometimes a consultation is performed because your physician would like the advice and counsel of another physician.

  ● Physician’s Orders – Your physician’s directions to other members of the healthcare team regarding your medications, tests, diets, and treatments.

  ● Imaging and X-ray Reports – Describe the findings of x-rays, mammograms, ultrasounds, and scans. The actual films are maintained in the radiology or imaging departments or on a computer.

  ● Lab Reports – Describe the results of tests conducted on body fluids. Common examples include a throat culture, urinalysis, cholesterol level, and complete blood count (CBC). Surprisingly, your health record does not usually contain your blood type. Blood typing is not part of routine lab work.

  ● Immunization Record – A form documenting immunizations given for disease such as polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and the flu. Parents should maintain a copy of their children’s immunization records with other important papers.

  ● Consent and Authorization Forms – Copies of consents for admission, treatment, surgery, and release of information.

Your records may contain some or all of the forms above. Depending upon your illness or injury, you may use the services of the emergency room, intensive care unit, a physical therapist, or home health nurse. Often these specialized services have unique evaluation, measurement, and progress forms you may also find in your health record.

For more information,

More resources:

   >> Learn More about Personal Health Records – Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

   >> About Personal Health Records (pdf) - Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

   >> MedlinePlus




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