An Introduction to Personal Health Records

Do you keep information about your health and health care services in more than one place? If so, keeping track of all your health care could become easier with a personal health record (PHR).

A PHR is a confidential and easy-to-use tool for managing information about your health. A PHR is usually an electronic file or record of your health information and recent services, such as allergies, medications, personal medical facts, and doctor or hospital visits that can be stored in one place, and then shared with others, as you see fit. You control how the information in your PHR is used and who can access it. Personal Health Records are usually used on the Internet so that you can look up your information wherever you are.

PHRs can hold a variety of information, depending on where that information comes from. It can include medical (clinical) information from doctors; health information you enter yourself; and claims data from services you've received that have been paid for by Medicare or another health plan. Many PHRs provide links to materials or other websites that have information about your particular health conditions or medications so you can understand more about how to care for yourself, or why you feel a certain way.

How would a PHR work for me?
Most people have their health information in lots of different places – at home, in their doctor's or therapist's offices, and anywhere they've been hospitalized. A PHR can help keep all of this information in one place, making it easier to find and share with others such as specialists or family members. In addition to the information you might have from your doctors, there might be information you would like to add about your health status that medical claims or medical records might not include, such as your family's health history, allergies to medications and foods, or a Living Will. With a central record, you can share information about your recent health services and conditions with all of your doctors. Sometimes this might help to avoid having duplicate procedures or tests, saving both time and money.

A PHR can also make a big difference in a medical emergency. Hospitals usually only need a few key facts to give you the fastest and best care in any emergency – your medications, allergies (especially to drugs), and emergency contact information. If you have a PHR, you can establish special permissions and/or passwords to allow others to have access to it so that they can have this critical information quickly – this basic information may save your life.

Key points to remember about personal health records:

  • You control the health information in your PHR;
  • If your PHR is Internet-based, you can access it from any place at any time, and easily share it with others;
  • You can update your health information to make sure it stays current;
  • You will be able to use tools to get information about your health conditions and learn what to expect from medications you are taking;
  • You may even be able to request prescription refills, schedule appointments, or send an email to your doctor with certain kinds of PHRs;
  • You can keep information on your PHR that could help in an emergency situation, and give others limited access to the PHR for just this purpose.

Reprinted courtesy of Medicare. For more information, please visit

Note: GEHA makes it easy for members to create their own personal health record. Just access the GEHA Health Toolbox and start keeping track of your allergies, immunizations, medications, surgeries, health conditions and diseases.