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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 December 13, 2018

          12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

          12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

          Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

          A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

          1. Eat Before Heading Out

          First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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          2. Select The Treats

          Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

          3. Avoid Skipping Meals

          Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

          4. Drink With Moderation

          It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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          5. Be Active

          You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

          6. Get Out Of The House

          Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

          7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

          Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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          8. Set Realistic Goals

          You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

          9. Enjoy Yourself

          Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

          10. Drink A Lot Of Water

          This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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          11. Eat Less And More Often

          Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

          12. Prioritize Your Workouts

          Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

          So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

          Happy Holidays everyone!

          Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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