Hospitals and physicians are putting their cumbersome paper medical records into much more easily accessed and manipulated electronic form. Now you can, too.
An array of products, from computer programs for your desktop to record-keeping software for pocket PCs or Palm devices, allow you to gather, update and carry your medical information easily in the form of a digital personal health record. The idea: Having essential health information at your fingertipsyour health history and vital stats, any medications you're taking and the dosages, your allergies, your lab results, and even your living willhelps patients communicate more accurately with their doctors and presumably get better care.
"An individual may be seeing an allergist, a cardiologist, and a radiologistsometimes all in the same day," says Eric Pan, an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at the Center for Information Technology Leadership in Charlestown, Mass. He sees PHRs as a way to make sure all the right information gets to everyone involved in care.
Some Internet-based PHRs support secure e-mail communication so that you can exchange information as needed with your doctor. Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif., and Partners HealthCare System in Boston are two healthcare providers that have created "tethered" Internet-based systems integrated with the companies' own electronic medical records, so participants can get much of their information in one place.
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