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Why You Should Be Tracking Your Health in a Personal Health Record

Why You Should Be Tracking Your Health in a Personal Health Record

We are all responsible for our own health. Our doctors are trusted advisers, but we are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making sure we are following their prescriptions, leading a healthy life, taking our medications as prescribed, and generally following their instructions.

Keeping track of all of this data is a chore. In the past, many patients with chronic conditions resorted to three ring binders stuffed full of their health information, but in today’s ubiquitously digital world, there are better ways. In this article we’ll be talking about Personal Health Record (PHR) software—an easy way to stay on top of your health.

What is a personal health record?

Personal Health Records are software applications that store and allow you to access information about your health conditions on your phone or in a web browser.

The range of information stored varies greatly by application, but at a minimum you can expect to see information about your doctors, the medications your are taking, a list of your medical conditions, allergies, prior surgeries, test reports and upcoming appointments. More advanced packages incorporate warnings about medication adverse events, patient education links to help you manage your health, tracking of key measurements such as weight, height, blood pressure, and much more.

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A PHR is not a patient portal provided by your hospital or doctor. It’s private software that can be used to aggregate all the data from portals into one consistent timeline of your health, as well as allowing you to add data that only you have.

PHR’s are not new, but the older crop of software was cumbersome and unwieldy. New flexible design approaches are recruiting a loyal user base of people with chronic conditions who need to manage their health more successfully.

How does this differ from using other health apps?

Other health apps such as fitbit step trackers are typically focused on very specific areas—such as fitness—whereas PHRs are designed to incorporate all aspects of your health. Many PHRs will allow you to seamlessly add data from your apple health or other health app software to provide an overall perspective on your health data.

Why would I store my personal health data online?

Storing your health data online is largely a matter of convenience for you, your family, and your doctor. This must be counterbalanced with the risk that someone may choose to hack into your PHR provider’s database and steal this data.

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First the bad news: the vast majority of health care institutions in the US have either already been hacked or expect to be hacked in the next two years, so there’s a good chance that at least part of your health record has already been stolen.

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    For all of this doom and gloom, you still can take steps to ensure you have a reasonable chance of privacy. Don’t just sign up blindly; take the time to review your prospective vendors security page and make sure they have had some form of external security audit performed in the last twelve months. Carefully read the terms and conditions and make sure you know what you are getting into before you press the “OK” button.

    Can I share my PHR data with my doctor and/or my family?

    Absolutely. Many PHRs allow you to add members of your family or physicians as members of your “Care Team,” thus ensuring that they can see and sometimes even add key information about your health. This can be particularly convenient for those of us with senior parents who sometimes need to act as go-betweens in a complex network of physicians and other care providers.

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      Some apps provide convenient summary screens that you can simply hand to your doctor and allow them to review the data and ask questions with a minimum of fuss. Other apps allow for electronic transfer using what’s known as direct (a form of secure email), or even via fax directly to the front office.

      Which PHR do you use?

      I’ve been a serious PHR user for about four years and have evolved in my preferences from a free program from Microsoft called “HealthVault” to a paid application called “CareSync.”

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        The CareSync PHR

        While I found the Microsoft program useful, it was cumbersome to enter data—one of the main reasons people don’t use PHRs. CareSync had a more streamlined user experience, the ability to easily lookup the location of my doctor’s offices on apple maps, an integrated care plan that tells me which med to take and when, as well as sharing features that allowed me to easily add my wife as a viewer of my entire medical record. It’s also an evolving platform whereas Microsoft Health Vault has had no new features of note in the past few years.

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        Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 6.43.06 AM
          Microsoft HealthVault

          Final Thoughts

          If you haven’t tried a Personal Health Record now may be the time.  After all, as Joyce Meyer put it so beautifully:

          “I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.”

          As the CIO and CTO at eHealth Technologies, Colin Rhodes is responsible for an innovative organization focused on medical records and imaging in Health Information Exchanges. Colin is also an active published author who contributes to a wide range of periodicals including LifeHack.org, Western New York Physician, Corporate IT Magazine, and Autism Parenting Magazine on a regular basis. In 2015, he was rated number 44 on the top 100 HCIT list for his continuing contributions to social media (http://healthcareit.me) and the BlogSphere as @CTOAndITGuy.

          Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

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          Colin Rhodes

          Chief Technology Officer

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          Last Updated on September 18, 2020

          7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

          7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

          Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

          Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

          1. Exercise Daily

          It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

          If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

          Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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          If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

          2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

          Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

          One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

          This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

          3. Acknowledge Your Limits

          Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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          Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

          Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

          4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

          Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

          The basic nutritional advice includes:

          • Eat unprocessed foods
          • Eat more veggies
          • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
          • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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          Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

            5. Watch Out for Travel

            Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

            This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

            If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

            6. Start Slow

            Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

            If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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            7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

            Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

            My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

            If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

            I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

            Final Thoughts

            Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

            Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

            More Tips on Getting in Shape

            Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

            Reference

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