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Personal Health Records in the US Healthcare


Personal health record (PHR) is a useful electronic service that is used by patients to store and access their medical information. PHR presents a unique opportunity for patients to store all their medical information electronically and manage it if required. PHR is entirely managed by patients and contains information from various sources, such as medical professionals, institutions, and patients themselves (“What is a personal health record?”, 2013). PHRs are used by many patients in the United States due to their convenience and accessibility.

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PHR affects the work of medical professionals as it allows them to obtain comprehensive information about a patient even if he or she visits the facility for the first time and has no medical records available. However, there are also certain concerns related to the use of PHR that has to be taken into account by patients and care providers alike. This paper aims to provide an example to illustrate the use of PHR in contemporary U.S. healthcare and to discuss the benefits and weaknesses of the service in order to offer some suggestions for improvement.

Example of Personal Health Records

The example of PHR is tethered or connected to personal health records. Tethered PHR is connected with electronic health records (EHR). EHRs, in turn, are kept by hospitals and other healthcare institutions for the staff to access them during the patient’s visit. EHRs can be shared by different institutions and healthcare settings, thus allowing medical professionals from a variety of organizations to access the patient’s medical records, if needed (Casey, 2016). The connection between the patient’s PHR and his or her EHR works both ways; thus, tethered PHRs allow patients to store and manage comprehensive information about their health, prescriptions, diet, and other important medical data (Casey, 2016).

Although tethered PHRs are easy to use and manage and are widely accessible, there are also some characteristics that pose concerns for patients and healthcare providers alike. For example, a study by Lester, Boateng, Studeny, and Coustasse (2016) showed that many health care providers were concerned with the interconnectedness offered by tethered PHRs. Indeed, transferring private patient’s information from one database to another, which is the key feature of tethered PHRs, could be regarded as a breach of patient privacy and confidentiality. While tethered PHRs are promoted as effective in improving patient outcomes, research studies refute the assumption. As shown by Toscos et al. (2016), there was no statistically significant improvement in patients using tethered PHR compared to those not using PHR during their cardiac treatment. Another major weakness of tethered PHR, as reported by Lester et al. (2016), was that the patient’s lack of medical literacy caused them to misinterpret the information obtained from their PHR. This could potentially lead to the overuse of medical services if patients require nurse’s or doctor’s clarification on a regular basis.

It is also important to address patients’ concerns regarding the use of personal health records. According to a study by Dontje, Corser, and Holzman (2014), patients had multiple difficulties with the use of tethered PHRs, including the difficulty of communicating through the PHR and problems in accessing the service. Besides, some patients found that the information included in their PHRs was either incorrect or incomplete (Dontje et al., 2014). The inadequacy of the information provided could potentially lead to medical errors, thus affecting patients’ health.

Overall, the features of tethered PHRs allow raising questions as to their efficiency. Based on the results obtained from the research, both health professionals and patients have concerns regarding the use of tethered PHR. Resolving these concerns by improving the technology could help to improve the use of tethered PHRs by patients, thus allowing them to yield its positive effects.

Personal Experience

My personal experience with PHR mainly consists of my work with patients using PHRs. For example, there was one time when I was providing nursing care to an elderly lady, and it turned out that her PHR was incomplete. Some of her previous diagnostic tests were not included in the PHR, which caused the physician to repeat the tests when it was not necessary. Also, the patient did not enter information about her allergies and past surgeries into her PHR. Luckily, she was able to provide that information in person; however, in a different setting, such as emergency care, failure to provide such information could have had a significant negative impact on the patient’s health.

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One positive aspect of the experience was that the patient’s PHR allowed accessing information from prior diagnostic tests and appointments. One major negative aspect of the experience, however, was that the records were incomplete, and thus unnecessary tests were obtained from the patient. The experience could have been improved if there was a way of ensuring that the patient’s information contained in the PHR was complete. For instance, it would be useful to send patients reminders about updating their PHR after a recent doctor’s appointment.


Overall, PHR is a useful technology that allows patients to manage and store their medical records and other health information electronically. The purpose of PHR is to enable fast access to medical records for patients and health professionals. However, research and my personal experience show that there are still some weaknesses in the technology that can cause medical errors or adverse patient outcomes if left unaddressed. Thus, it is critical for nurses to verify all data from the PHR with the patient and cross-check with the EHR to ensure that the information is comprehensive and accurate.


Casey, I. (2016). The effect of education on portal personal health record use. Web.

Dontje, K., Corser, W., & Holzman, G. (2014). Understanding patient perceptions of the electronic personal health record. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners 10(10), 824-828.

Lester, M., Boateng, S., Studeny, J., & Coustasse, A. (2016). Personal health records: Beneficial or burdensome for patients and healthcare providers? Perspectives in Health Information Management, 13(2), 1-12.

Toscos, T., Daley, C., Heral, L., Doshi, R., Chen, Y. C., Eckert, G. J.,… Mirro, M. J. (2016). Impact of electronic personal health record use on engagement and intermediate health outcomes among cardiac patients: A quasi-experimental study. Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, 23(1), 119-128.

What is a personal health record? (2013). 

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