Personal Health Records (PHR) are a handy way for patients to keep track of their medical information. PHRs can benefit everyone, but they are especially useful to those who see many different doctors and take several medications at one time. Doctors may not be aware of every medication their patients take if their patients see many different specialists. Personal health records help break down these information silos and give each physician better information about their patient.
Medicare allows its beneficiaries to store their health records online with one of four companies: Google Health, HealthTrio, NoMoreClipboard.com, and PassportMD. Web based services are handy because the patient can access them from anywhere with an internet connection, and they do not have to worry about carrying around a small USB drive. Many of these web-based PHRs offer additional services, such as interfaces to pharmacy data, drug interaction databases, and diet tracking tools.
While handy, web-based PHRs have a couple of drawbacks. First, they are out on the internet, so security is not guaranteed. Just like online banking, web-based PHRs usually have pretty robust security. The weakest link is usually the passwords users choose to protect their accounts. State of the art encryption and best practices count for nothing if patients use a password that an attacker can easily guess. Furthermore, there are many incidents where hospitals have leaked patient information onto the internet because their web servers were miss-configured.
Second, you need an internet connection to access your data. If you are on vacation, on the road, or anywhere without connectivity, your data is inaccessible. This may not seem like a big deal, but consider what would happen if you are in an accident. USB-based PHRs are instantly available to any EMT or emergency worker. They can access your health records almost instantly. This is not possible with a web-based PHR.
USB-based PHRs are a better choice, because the patient carries them at all times. XLEMR’s PHR, the Medical Information 5 card, is contained in a slim USB drive that fits in your wallet. Robust military-strength AES encryption protects sensitive health documents should the card be lost or stolen.
Personal health records are a great way for patients to keep track of their information, but they must keep security in mind. Patients have to strike a balance between safety and fast access to information with their privacy and security. That is a decision only the patient can make.