There are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around in hospitals, physician practices and medical facilities across the United States, and it can be easy for patients to get confused about which terms matter and what they mean. With federal programs incentivizing healthcare providers for engaging patients in their health, two terms that caregivers are using a lot lately are “personal health record” and “patient portal” – both extremely relevant to patients and crucial for getting them involved in decisions about their health. But what does each one mean?
Personal Health Record (PHR)
A PHR is an electronic record of an individual’s health information that can draw information from various sources. This can include data obtained by the patient (weight, height, current medications, emergency contact information and family medical history), as well as data obtained from providers (diagnoses, immunizations and lab results).
In stark contrast to an electronic health record (EHR), which contains data entered and controlled by a healthcare provider, many PHRs are managed primarily by the patient. The patient can share the data with a physician if they choose to, but they are not required to. This type of PHR is referred to as “standalone.”
The other type of personal health record, which is slowly becoming more common, connects to a healthcare organization’s EHR system so that both the patient and their provider can access and update data contained within the record, resulting in a more accurate and comprehensive medical record.
An online patient portal is a tool that connects to a healthcare organization’s electronic health record software. It allows patients to view certain portions of their medical record, similar to a PHR. However, unlike a PHR, patients cannot always make changes to their record. Instead, they can view data such as clinical summaries and test results and benefit from features such as:
- Secure electronic messaging
- Appointment scheduling
- Prescription refill request
- Online bill pay
Though patient portals appear to be more comprehensive resources than patient-maintained PHRs, a major downside is that they do not contain data from all of a patient’s physicians. In fact, each healthcare group will have their own portal with data pulled from that organization’s own EHR.
Do your providers use a patient portal or EHR-connected PHR? Do you maintain your own personal health record? Which method do you prefer?