A few weeks ago I learned that one of my young friends was going to be “home alone” for the weekend with his young daughter.  It was evident that this may have been the first time that his wife left him in charge while she was away.  Normally this would not be too interesting to me but in this case my interest was piqued when I was shown his list of important information and instructions that his wife left him with. 

Paul (name has been changed) seems to be a responsible young husband and father.  But Paul’s wife was evidently concerned enough to make sure that he had the necessary medical information to handle any unforeseen medical situations that could arise.  The list consisted of some basic information including:

  •              name, phone and address of primary care physician
  •              name, phone and address of specialist
  •              health insurance information including policy number
  •              list of medical conditions
  •              list of allergies, etc.
  •              emergency contact information

The basic information and instructions left for Paul by his wife would have been contained in their personal health records (PHR’s) if they had one.  Creating and maintaining personal health record would have eliminated the need for Paul’s wife to write a list each time she was away from home. 

I was informed by another friend (baby boomer age) that he knew nothing about the medications his wife takes.  His concern was, should something ever happened to her, that he would not know how to advise EMS personnel or emergency room physicians about her medical conditions or her medications.  I suppose that he would end up emptying the medicine cabinet into a brown paper bag and handing it over to them in hopes of helping them make prudent medical decisions.  A personal health record would provide more complete information in a much more usable format.

Both situations are real and most likely represent the actual level of preparedness of most Americans.   Starting a personal health history is a good first step towards a functional personal health record (PHR).  Once the information is gathered it can be used to create a personal health record that will provide basic health information for you and your family. 

Personal health records can easily provide pertinent information in a medical emergency.  PHR’s can also be used to benefit the exchange of this information between you and your health care providers.  PHR’s will help help you to manage your medical conditions better as well.  Consider starting a personal health record for you and your family now.

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