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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 March 13, 2019

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

          Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

          You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

          Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

          1. Work on the small tasks.

          When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

          Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

          2. Take a break from your work desk.

          Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

          Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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          3. Upgrade yourself

          Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

          The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

          4. Talk to a friend.

          Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

          Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

          5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

          If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

          Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

          Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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          6. Paint a vision to work towards.

          If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

          Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

          Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

          7. Read a book (or blog).

          The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

          Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

          Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

          8. Have a quick nap.

          If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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          9. Remember why you are doing this.

          Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

          What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

          10. Find some competition.

          Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

          Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

          11. Go exercise.

          Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

          Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

          As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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          Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

          12. Take a good break.

          Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

          Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

          Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

          Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

          More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

          Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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