For electronic health records and personal health records to reach their true potential in the health information technology industry, the two must be completely integrated with one another. The PHR system you choose at this point should be able to retrieve your health records and allow the information entered by you and the information entered by your physician to be easily distinguished. The first step towards this goal will be getting EHRs from any provider to be interoperable between hospitals and physician offices.

A patient’s medical record should be allowed to be viewed by the patient and anyone else that may impact their healthcare on a needed basis. Having a PHR enhances the quality of care that a physician provides, and may include important information that you may forget to tell the doctor when you are in the examination room. The physician can review your PHR before you arrive. So, instead of waiting for you to remember what you wanted to talk about, he can provide answers and explanations he has already prepared. In addition to the information you enter into the PHR, you can also hook up a blood pressure monitor, pedometer, or blood glucose monitor to the computer so information is automatically entered in for both you and your doctor to reference.

If your physicians EHR has the ability to integrate with your PHR, then the information that the doctor takes down about you, whether it be prescribing a new medication, putting you on a new diet plan, or referring you to a specialist, can immediately be imported into your PHR so you have access to it at anytime. You will be able to have your current medications listed in one place, where your doctor can review them. This will help prevent any adverse drug interactions when prescribing future prescriptions.

Some EMR companies are providing patient portals for physicians to enter their patient’s information so they can have access to them at anytime. One company, MyMedicalRecords, provides an option for patients whose physicians use MMR Pro EMR to upgrade to a PHR account where doctors can upload all the information into a separate portal. Medisoft EMR allows interfacing with a patient’s personal health record from any company, or even another electronic medical record from another physicians practice.

Google has added new features to Google Health PHR. These features allow patients to supply their physician with important information that can be added to their electronic medical record, and the users can determine what data to share with the physician. This way any private information that they may not want shared with a particular doctor can be kept hidden in a separate section which is password protected.

Besides offering a complete bundle though their new partnership with Wal-Mart, eClinicalWorks has also teamed up with Microsoft HealthVault to allow easy access to physicians and patients. HealthVault just came out with a Connector Software that enables patients to exchange information between their doctor’s EHR and their HealthVault account. By integrating with HealthVault, patients have the ability to empower themselves by keeping up with their health data, and they have means to share it with other physicians that may not be in the same health care facility.
The integration between EHRs and PHRs is a very important factor when it comes to health information technology. Now a patient that is visiting relatives in New York has the ability to keep their physician in California up to speed with any important health changes that may occur while traveling. This is just the first step in the new era of HIT, connecting patients to physicians like never before.

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Written By: Samantha Werner and Eric Fishman, MD on March 2009. Copyright 2009, 1450, Inc.