Talking Points: Personal Health Records (PHRs)

What is the difference between personal health information and a personal health record?
Personal health information is any and all of the data that relates to an individual’s health; while a personal health record is the organized collection of that information maintained in such a way as to be useful when accessed by the patient, a caregiver or a medical professional.

Why should everyone have a personal health record?
Everyone should be able to readily access, understand and use their personal health information. PHRs allow people to be more active partners in their healthcare, giving them updated information whenever and wherever needed.

How does a personal health record help?
PHRs provide patients, caregivers and medical personnel a single, detailed and comprehensive profile of a person’s health status and healthcare activity and facilitate informed decisions about the care of an individual. A PHR may also reduce duplicate procedures or processes—such as repeated lab tests and x-rays—saving both time and money. PHRs also help people prepare for appointments, facilitate care in emergency situations as well as help track health changes.

What’s the best way to keep a personal health record?
AHIMA encourages people to begin tracking personal health information in whatever format works best for them—even if the choice is handwriting on paper. The most important thing is that the record is legible and complete in whatever information it is intended to portray. However, we recommend that individuals use an electronic media as a means of facilitating a timely, accurate and secure exchange of information across healthcare institutions and providers.

How important is personal health record privacy?
Privacy is extremely important. PHR information should always be stored in a secure manner; just as one would store other confidential personal information such as financial records.

How should a person choose a personal health record supplier?
People can create their own PHR or accept one offered to them by their healthcare provider, insurer employer or a commercial PHR supplier. However, people need to be mindful that each PHR supplier has different policies and practices regarding how they may use the 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. When accepting PHR from any outside source, one should always make sure privacy, security, access and control meets their satisfaction.

Where’s the best place to start once one decides to start a personal health record? is always the best place to start. It is an excellent source for comprehensive, patient-friendly information with forms in English and Spanish.