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Benefits of EHRs

Patient Participation

Providers and patients who share access to electronic health information can collaborate in informed decision making. Patient participation is especially important in managing and treating chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and obesity.

How EHRs Foster Patient Participation

Electronic health records (EHRs) can help providers:

  • Ensure high-quality care. With EHRs, providers can give patients full and accurate information about all of their medical evaluations. Providers can also offer follow-up information after an office visit or a hospital stay, such as self-care instructions, reminders for other follow-up care, and links to web resources.
  • Create an avenue for communication with their patients. With EHRs, providers can manage appointment schedules electronically and exchange e-mail with their patients. Quick and easy communication between patients and providers may help providers identify symptoms earlier. And it can position providers to be more proactive by reaching out to patients.

Personal Health Records

A personal health record, or PHR, is an electronic application used by patients to maintain and manage their own health information (or that of others for whom they are authorized to do so). A PHR differs from an EHR in that patients themselves usually set up and access the PHR. Patients can use a PHR to keep track of information from doctor visits, record other health-related information, and link to health-related resources.

PHRs can increase patient participation in their own care. They can also help families become more engaged in the health care of family members.

  • With standalone PHRs, patients fill in the information from their own records and memories, and the information is stored on patients' computers or the Internet.
  • Tethered or connected PHRs are linked to a specific health care organization's EHR system or to a health plan's information system. The patient accesses the information through a secure portal.

With tethered/connected PHRs, patients can log on to their own records and see, for example, the trend of their lab results over the last year. That kind of information can motivate patients to take medications and keep up with lifestyle changes that have improved their health.

Ideally, patients will be able to link their PHRs with their doctors' EHRs, creating their own health care "hubs." Most doctors are not ready for that kind of change quite yet, but it is a worthy goal.

The Patient's Perspective

Information technology is at the heart of modern life. It touches different people in different ways. Some are comfortable with new technologies; others may be intimidated, at least at first. EHRs, PHRs, and other health IT developments tend to make many patients more active participants in their own health care. As providers adopt new technologies such as EHRs, it's important to keep the patient's perspective in mind.

Learn more about health IT from the consumer's perspective.