Personal health records (PHRs) are specific programs or tools that help patients record, store, retrieve, and review the personal information about their health and health status. Using these programs, patients can also exchange data; their aim is not only to help patients maintain useful records but also to stimulate action (Agarwal, Anderson, Zarate, & Ward, 2013). Studeny and Coustasse (2014) define personal health records as electronic applications that individuals use to manage and share personal information about their health or health of other individuals if they are authorized to do so; such exchange of information occurs securely and confidentially.
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The paper aims to review PHRs, provide an example of them, present their advantages and disadvantages, and discuss the personal experience of how the author used these tools. The impact of PHRs on the delivery of nursing care is significant because they make it more cost-efficient, ensure that nurses have all necessary information about patients’ vaccinations and other medical data, and help patients avoid repeated testing that can be costly and needless.
Example of Personal Health Records
Personal health records can vary. Some of them are provided to patients in the read-only form, while others can be manipulated and changed by patients. The author will use the second type of PHRs as an example. Such PHRs are also called integrated PHRs, which implies that they are parts of the patient’s electronic health record (EHR) (Studeny & Coustasse, 2014). Unlike read-only versions, an integrated PHR not only allows patients to enter or change data that is already embedded into it but also communicate with the provider, remove mistakes, and sometimes use Internet-based transaction tools.
Additionally, an integrated PHR can target the patient’s specific needs related to his or her condition and offer appropriate advice or help. Some institutions or providers also make the entire medical record available to the patient (Studeny & Coustasse, 2014). It should be noted that an integrated PHR can make patient’s perception of the delivered care more positive because with the help of this tool he or she can check and follow the correct intake of the prescribed drugs, securely communicate with their physician and nurse(s), refill prescriptions if necessary, receive results of laboratory tests, and manage and schedule appointments. Suffice to say that such wide options do not merely make the patient’s attitude to the provided care better but also assist nurses and physicians in delivering quality care.
Patients become more tech-savvy and prefer using smartphones and tablets for communication and management of their illnesses. To satisfy the patient’s needs, institutions and hospitals develop integrated PHRs that can be downloaded to an individual’s phone and used on the road. Thus, patients can access their personal records from anywhere in the world, which empowers them and makes the management of their condition more effectively.
The author has used an integrated PHR of a 10-year old patient diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Medication information, comorbidities, primary symptoms, monthly visiting schedule with their physician, and other data were entered into the PHR. The patient has successfully learned how to navigate it, although most of the time, their father used the tool to conduct disease management and schedule appointments due to the patient’s young age. Although the patient’s parent had difficulties with the PHR at first as he had had no previous experience with such tools, he eventually admitted that the PHR helped him increase the child’s adherence to medication and improved his understanding of the condition. At the same time, the parent also expressed concerns about the security of such applications, pointing out that it could be compromised if any hacker attack targeting the program or the developer of the PHR took place. Furthermore, the author also noticed that the patient’s father mostly used the PHR to schedule appointments but never to communicate with the physician(s) about other aspects of the treatment.
Thus, the PHR’s positive aspect is its usability and convenience both for the nurse and the patient. It is cost- and time-effective increases a patient’s adherence to medication and can be used by the patient’s guardian to manage their condition. The negative aspect of the PHR is its security system that can be potentially compromised. In the described case, the PHR software was provided by a third-party manufacturer, which only increased the patient’s distrust toward the tool. It should be noted that patients in other studies also expressed worries about the security of their medical records, especially those that were stored in the Cloud (Rodrigues, De La Torre, Fernández, & López-Coronado, 2013). Thus, hospitals and clinicians should use certified providers of such software or develop their own so that patients trust the program the hospital provides them with. In the discussed case, the situation could be improved if patients received copies of certificates to prove they can use the software without concerns.
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PHRs are tools that assist patients and nurses in storing, sharing, retrieving, and using information about particular conditions, laboratory tests, medications, etc. The paper demonstrated how PHRs are used in hospitals, their advantages and disadvantages, and what hospitals can do to improve their efficiency. The author aims to use PHRs more often in the clinical practice and encourage patients to do so, as well as draw the hospital’s attention to the security of communication and online transactions in such tools.
Agarwal, R., Anderson, C., Zarate, J., & Ward, C. (2013). If we offer it, will they accept? Factors affecting patient use intentions of personal health records and secure messaging. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(2), 43-56.
Rodrigues, J. J., De La Torre, I., Fernández, G., & López-Coronado, M. (2013). Analysis of the security and privacy requirements of cloud-based electronic health records systems. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 15(8), 186-194.
Studeny, J., & Coustasse, A. (2014). Personal health records: Is rapid adoption hindering interoperability? Perspectives in Health Information Management, 11(1), 1-10.