No doubt you have heard of PHRs – Personal Health Records, and are at least somewhat familiar with how a PHR can be instrumental in providing doctors with critical information that can improve the quality of the healthcare you receive. 

An accurate PHR can help reduce the need for redundant diagnostics, allow you to receive faster treatment in an emergency, ensure accurate prescribing of medication, and may even reduce, or eliminate medical errors. In short, a PHR allows you to take a more active role in determining your medical outcomes – but only if they contain accurate information! 

Healthcare and IT professionals agree that PHRs can be a boon to medicine – but they also ask that all users of PHRs – no matter what system – check their paper health records for accuracy before importing  them into a PHR, and continue to do so regularly. 

Case in point: kidney cancer survivor Dave deBronkart. Dave recently created a PHR by importing his records into Google Health. However he was stunned to discover upon reviewing the file that he was ascribed conditions he never knew he had, such as an aortic aneurysm, and that something about a blood pressure prescription he had been taking required “immediate attention.”   

Did Google slip up and load the wrong person’s records? – A fear many have of using an online PHR?  No, this time, that was not the case. Rather, the problem was at the original source. It seems the data punched into the hospital’s billing system had been mistranslated back into deBronkart’s medical records.  

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe he is not alone.The problem, say Health IT Experts, is with the awkward and often inaccurate way Medical Billing Software’s describe conditions and diagnostic treatments for insurance company reimbursements. 

In deBronkart’s case for example – his PHR said he suffered from “Chronic Lung Disease” – because he had a few bouts with bronchitis in recent years that required chest x-rays and other pulmonary diagnostics ordered by doctors to rule out certain conditions. Again his “aortic aneurysm” listed in his record was not due to his suffering that actual full blown blockage – but the test the doctors ran to discover that he had a non life-threatening slight swelling of the artery.

So what can you do to avoid problems like this? Experts advise that before you import any data into any PHR solution, you review all of your paper records. It is your right under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) to obtain copies of your medical records from any hospital or physician you have visited. You can request your records from the Medical Records Department – also known as the Health Information Management (HIM) department in many facilities.