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The Difference between Electronic Health Records and Personal Health Records

There is often a lot of confusion associated with electronic medical record terminology since phrases and acronyms have emerged to mean different things but are frequently used interchangeably or incorrectly. Here we identify some important distinctions but we encourage readers to do their own research. These systems are constantly evolving and the differences may become smaller. However, at the time of this writing, these are the key distinctions.

Electronic Medical Records or EMRs. These are your medical records that are collected and maintained by a hospital, clinic, or private practice. This information is protected by HIPAA but nevertheless it may get shared with your family, other doctors that are treating you, and even your insurance company for billing purposes. In addition, portions of your record are often shared with national registries or dozens of government agencies like the Center for Disease Control to monitor population statistics and disease trends.

Electronic medical records may include some or all of the following: identification sheet, problem list, medication record, history and physical, progress notes, consultation, physician’s orders, imaging reports, lab reports, immunization record, consent and authorization forms. If surgery is part of your history, then records may also include operative reports, pathology reports, and discharge summaries. Any information that is collected by EMR’s is also used in billing your insurance company. Tests, procedures and illnesses are all coded electronically to identify appropriate payments and reimbursements.

Even if your healthcare providers belong to the same health system, they may not necessarily have access to all the paperwork on you and may not be aware of treatments you might be receiving from other healthcare providers. This is why it is important to maintain your own health records.

Electronic Health Records or EHRs. In general, this term usually refers to electronic medical records (EMR) that are maintained by hospitals. It should not be confused with personal health records (PHR) that are described below.

Personal Health Records or PHRs. These are generally not the same as the electronic health records maintained by hospitals even though there are some aspects to these systems that contain some of the same information. Personal health records are third party applications that generally reside outside the hospital (untethered) and allow a patient full control of his or her health information.

The advantage to these systems is that patient are truly in control of these records in terms of how these records are shared and how much information is entered. There are numerous personal health record systems and each offers different suites of services to help a patient better manage their health.

In shopping for personal health record systems, some things to keep in mind include:

- Is it private and secure?

- Can it be shared with your physician or health provider?

- Can you enter all the information a provider needs to treat you?

- Does it consider details about chronic problems?

- Does it help you to better manage your health?

- Does it enable your provider to more easily communicate with you?

An important aspect to personal health records is the ability for the information contained in the records to somehow pass into an EMR. Doctors often hesitate to use more than one system in their practice, so a major benefit would be if their EMR could bring up a personal health report just as it would an X-ray or lab result.

There are lots of things to consider in both EMRs and PHRs. myLifeLog is a powerful system in providing patient control, depth of reporting, and lifetime tracking and a host of support features to continually enrich health records and the user experience.

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