Your Health Information at Your Fingertips

Nancy B. Finn is a journalist with an expertise in the implementation of digital communications in health care and shared this story about personal health records:

I was recently hospitalized. Fortunately I did not have to go through the emergency department but was admitted directly to a room. When I arrived, the nurse assigned to my case sat down with me to go over my medical history and medications. Much to her surprise I provided her with my personal health record (PHR) that I had created several months earlier on the iHealth Record web site My PHR included information on the illnesses I had contracted; my family medical history, medical proxy, and most important my medications and allergies to medications and food. With this information, the nurse was able to complete our interview quickly and efficiently, confident that the information was accurate and up to date. She let me know that she had not run into a patient with a PHR before and that she was clearly impressed.

I was at Massachusetts General Hospital, an institution that had my electronic medical record digitally stored in the computer, so much of this data was available. However, I see many different providers who are both within and outside the hospital network so portions of my medical history were not in the hospital EMR. Furthermore, had I been admitted to a hospital that did not have my medical record, there would have been no way of knowing anything about my health history without this PHR. It is scary to contemplate having to recall all of my medical information at a time when I am ill and not at my best.

Much is being written and discussed about personal health records particularly as Microsoft Health Vault, Google Health and Dossia roll out their PHR platforms. Shortly after Google Health was unveiled more than two dozen companies announced that they would become partners with Google to create PHRs for their employees. Microsoft HealthVault, Dossia and Web MD have experienced similar enthusiastic response from industry and healthcare institutions.

At the recent Connected for Health Symposium in Boston, MA, representatives from each of those organizations spoke about their PHR strategy. Each of them has aligned with large employers, and/ or with payers and/or with provider organizations to offer PHRs that will support individuals dealing with chronic disease; that will provide data for analysis, that stores information entered by individuals, payers and providers securely and can be retrieved by providers when and where they need to access that information.

We know that fewer than one in five doctors are using an electronic health record in their practice because the logistics of installing, implementing and training staff to use these records is a task of great magnitude and one that most doctors who are not affiliated with large institutions do not have the time or resources to accomplish. With employers solidly behind the concept of each of their employees having a personal health record, the patient-owned PHR has the potential to fill a gap in information needed at the point of care by empowering consumers to create their own record, in a secure environment, that contains all of the health information that patient’s have about themselves. This data can be merged with information that the provider records at the time of an office or hospital visit. The result is a patient population that can interact with providers in new and different ways to optimize care.

You never know when you might have to go into the hospital. I certainly did not plan my hospital visit, – it was totally unexpected. With a PHR readily available, the patient is a giant step closer to protecting their most valuable asset – their health and wellbeing.

Nancy will respond to comments here, or you can check out her blog: HealthCare Basics


Posted in: hc's problem list





10 Responses to “Your Health Information at Your Fingertips”

  1. Christine Gray says:

    Thanks. I loved this post, being new to PHR’s and all.

    Two questions:

    1. What is the guarantee that the record is accurate?

    2. What are the legal ramfications if something on the record is NOT accurate?

  2. […] that she had not run into a patient with a PHR before and that she was clearly impressed.” Article Nancy Finn/Susannah Fox,, 16 November […]

  3. Thanks for the pointer to iHealthRecord. I hadn’t heard about that one, and I’m going to look into it.

  4. Nancy Finn says:


    iHealthRecord is a good place where individuals can create their own PHR and keep it up to date. The objective is to get the doctor to join iHealth Record and add to PHR but that is not always feasible as many docs are resistent. As an early PHR solution for individual healthcare consumers the iHealth Record works well. With the advent of Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault and Dossia, the PHR world has now turned on its axis and it will be interesting to watch the many solutions unfold.

  5. Nancy Finn says:


    In answer to your questions:

    1. There is no more guarantee that the information in an iHealth PHR is accurate than there is a guarantee that a patient’s medical history taken by a healthcare provider is accurate. One would hope that the patient would be sincere and meticulous in creating the PHR and keeping it up to date but that is never a sure thing.

    2. I am not sure whether or not there are legal ramifications if the PHR is not accurate. It has to be viewed by the healthcare professional treating the patient as one information source among many including a real time interview with the patient. This is going to be a key question as more patients have PHRs whether through iHealth record, or other vendors who are entering this landscape.

  6. bff says:

    Nancy says “One would hope that the patient would be sincere and meticulous in creating the PHR and keeping it up to date.” I can count on myself to be sincere, but not I can’t count on myself to be meticulous. So I would rather pay for a service like Zweena, where trained professionals keep my records up to date for me.

  7. Nancy Finn says:


    Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. I agree it is very difficult to get people to keep their PHR up to date. Thanks for mentioning Zweena. It is a service I had not come across and is very interesting. Can you give me more detail on how it works for you?

  8. bff says:

    Nancy, is a brand new company. As a reporter, I did an article on it and promptly signed up to be a beta tester. The client gives Zweena the contact info for the doctors, and Zweena elicits your medical records. A Zweena RN takes care of scanning or typing them in. The client doesn’t have to do that (a big plus). The client gets the access code to see ALL the records. For each doctor visit, the client notifies Zweena, and the circle continues.

    I am no longer reporting on Zweena, now that I am a client.

  9. Suresh Kumar says:

    Hi Nancy,

    It’s great to hear that you have taken upon yourself to create and maintain your PHR. You must be the “1 in 1000”! How do we get the other 999 to do the same?

    As a PHR technologist and a founder of a PHR startup, this is something I am working towards. Having been in Healthcare for quite sometime and hearing polticians, lawmakers and well wishers, I strongly believe the ONUS is on us (The Patient) to take charge and take care of themselves. The first step is to start and maintain their PHR.


  10. […] also Nancy’s November 2008 post here about a recent […]

Leave a Reply