Personal Health Records (PHRs)

A Personal Health Record (PHR) is a record with information about your health that you, or someone helping you, keep for easy reference using a computer. You control the health information in your PHR and can get to it anywhere at any time with Internet access.

PHRs use secure technology to protect your information from being seen without permission. You'll get a unique user ID and password. You control who can see your information.

Why use PHRs? 

  • You keep all your health information in one place, making it easier to find information about your recent health services and conditions and share it with your providers, caregivers, and family members.
  • PHRs help providers get the information they need to treat you in an emergency by quickly sharing information on your medications, allergies, and emergency contacts. You can let others have access to your PHR for just this situation.
  • PHRs help you avoid getting duplicate procedures or tests, saving you both time and money.
  • If you have Internet access, you can update your PHR and keep your personal information current.
  • Some PHRs let you refill prescriptions, schedule appointments, email your doctor, and learn more about your condition and medications.

Who offers PHRs?

  • Providers, health plans, and private companies. Some PHRs are offered for free.
  • Some independent companies create and maintain PHRs for you. If you give them permission, they may be able to get your health information from your doctor or health plan.
  • If your doctor or health plan doesn't offer a PHR, check what's available from other companies at Globe icon       .

Is my health information private & secure in a PHR?

  • Yes—special permissions or passwords let you choose who can access your PHR so others can get your critical information quickly.
  • When you use a PHR, make sure it's on a secure website. Most companies offering PHRs have a secure site to protect and keep your information safe.
  • Health plans and most health care providers who offer PHRs must give you a "Notice of Privacy Practices" that says how they keep your personal information private and safe. If you don't get a privacy notice, ask for a copy or check your PHR's website.

How to get permission to someone else's PHR (if you're a caregiver) 

If you help make health care decisions for a loved one or take care of someone with Medicare, you don't automatically have a right to see or use their medical information, even though you may need it in order to make sure their care is coordinated. By law, only the patient has the right to their own health information, even if you're an immediate family member or if you help set up their PHR.

  • The patient needs to submit a written authorization to their doctors, health care facilities, and health plan for caregivers to get access to their health care information. You may already have filed an authorization with the individuals' provider or health plan for this type of access under the HIPAA privacy rule.
  • Caregiver authorization needs to be complete and comprehensive—it needs to give the provider (doctor or hospital) permission to release all information regarding treatment and care to the patient and/or anyone else designated.
  • Some PHR home pages let an individual give permission to other people to use the tool. That person will then get their own user ID and password.