Personal Health Records vs. Electronic Health Care Records

Instructor: Alexandra Unfried

Alexandra earned her master's degree in nursing education and is currently a hospital supervisor/administrator.

Healthcare has been adopting electronic medical records over the last decade. This lesson will discuss the similarities and differences between personal health records and electronic health care records.

How do Patients View their Medical Information?

Jenny is a sixty-nine year old woman who is not very familiar with technology. She has just met with her primary care physician and was told that she can review her medical information on the internet using a patient portal provided by the doctor's office. Jenny is confused and asks the secretary for more information about how a patient portal works and if it is safe to have her medical information in cyberspace. The secretary gives Jenny a small explanation of electronic health care records and how they are protected.

Purpose and Safety of Electronic Health Care Records

The government introduced the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) act in 2009 to help healthcare providers improve the quality, efficiency, and safety of patient care by using electronic medical records. This act contains a program called Meaningful Use which offers monetary incentives to healthcare providers and organizations for implementing the use of electronic medical records and show that the program is improving patient care. The information in the electronic medical record is protected through the use of PIN numbers and passwords. Information is also encrypted which means that the user accessing the record must use a specific key to decrypt the information. This is mandated through the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) which requires any health information to remain secure and private.

An EHR/PHR improves patient care
An EHR/PHR improves patient care

Jenny has heard of HIPAA before so her mind is put at ease knowing that her information is protected. She still has questions about how the electronic health care record and personal health record work. The secretary starts explaining the difference between Jenny's personal health records and the electronic health care records.

Electronic Health Care Records

Electronic health care records (EHR) are used in all of the different types of healthcare settings. An EHR is utilized by physicians, specialists, and laboratories to document and review patient's medical information. Any health care provider that is involved in the care of the patient is able to access the EHR to add results or review past histories. The information that is located in an EHR includes:

  • Progress notes
  • Demographics
  • Past medical history
  • Laboratory results
  • Radiology results
  • Medications
  • Immunizations
  • Vital signs
  • Problems

EHR's not only put medical records in one convenient location, but they also reduce errors and can make patient care more efficient. Typing keeps notes legible so misread orders, prescriptions, and results decreases. Since each provider for the patient has access, duplication of tests and information from other types of visits reduce costs and delays in treatments and interventions.

Jenny had no idea that most healthcare providers are no longer keeping paper records, but are instead using EHR's. Jenny is now prepared to learn about her person health record and how she can use it.

Personal Health Records

Personal health records (PHR) contain similar information that the EHR does and are used by patients to view their medical information entered into a computer system by their doctor. Many times the term PHR and patient portal is used interchangeably and often has the ability to be interactive between the patient and provider. Information that can be seen by the patient in their PHR includes:

  • Discharge summaries
  • Recent doctor visits
  • Laboratory results
  • Immunizations
  • Allergies
  • Medications

Immunization records in the PHR keep the patient on schedule
Immunization records in the PHR keep the patient on schedule

Interactive aspects of the PHR include the ability to securely e-mail their doctor, request a prescription refill, make payments, view educational documents, schedule routine appointments, update contact information, check on health insurance coverage and benefits, and download and fill out forms. The PHR also allows the patient to be more active in their healthcare by becoming more aware of their health issues while increasing communication with their doctor and decreasing use of healthcare services.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account