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A personal health record or PHR is typically a health record that is initiated and maintained by an individual. An ideal PHR would provide a complete and accurate summary of the health and medical history of an individual by gathering data from many sources and making this information accessible online to anyone who has the necessary electronic credentials to view the information.

Definition Edit

The term “personal health record” is not new. The earliest, English-language article indexed by PubMed that mentions the term is dated June 1978;[1] however, search results from PubMed also reveal that most scientific articles written about PHRs have been published since 2000.

The PHR is an ill-defined concept that has been developing over several years.The term has been applied to both paper-based and computerized systems; however, current usage usually implies an electronic resource. In recent years, several formal definitions of the term have been proposed by various organizations.[2] [3] [4] Although each definition is unique, most of the definitions agree that the PHR is a computerized application that stores an individual's personal health information.

It is important to note that PHRs are not the same as EHRs (electronic health records). The latter are software systems designed for use by health care providers. Like the data recorded in paper-based medical records, the data in EHRs are legally mandated notes on the care provided by clinicians to patients. There is no legal mandate that compels a consumer or patient to store her personal health information in a PHR.

PHRs can contain a diverse range of data but usually include information about:

  • allergies and adverse drug reactions,
  • medications (including dose and how often taken) including over the counter medications and herbal remedies,
  • illnesses and hospitalizations,
  • surgeries and other procedures,
  • vaccinations,
  • laboratory test results,
  • and family history.

In addition to storing an individual's personal health information, some PHRs provide added-value services such as drug-drug interaction checking or electronic messaging between patients and providers.

PHR Platforms Edit

One of the principle distinguishing features of a PHR is the platform by which it is delivered. The types of platforms include: paper, personal computers, the internet, and portable devices.

Paper-based PHRs: Personal health information is recorded and stored in paper format. Printed laboratory reports, copies of clinic notes, and health histories created by the individual may be parts of a paper-based PHR. This method is low cost, reliable, and accessible without the need for a computer or any other hardware.

Paper-based PHRs may be difficult to locate, update, and share with others. Paper-based PHRs are subject to physical loss and damage, such as can occur during a natural disaster. Paper records can also be printed from most electronic PHRs.

PC-Based PHR: Personal health information is recorded and stored in personal computer-based software that may have the capability to print, backup, encrypt, and import data from other sources such as a hospital laboratory. The most basic form of a PC-based PHR would be a health history created in a word-processing program. The health history created in this way can be printed, copied, and shared with anyone with a compatible word processor.

PHR software can provide more sophisticated features such as data encryption, data importation, and data sharing with health care providers. Some PHR products allow the copying of health records to a mass-storage device such as a CD-ROM, DVD, smart card, or USB flash drive.

PC-based PHRs are subject to physical loss and damage of the personal computer and the data that it contains. PC-based PHRs may be vulnerable to unauthorized access via Internet or other data connections. The encryption of personal health information is a valuable feature, as is a firewall.

Internet-Based PHR: Personal health information is accessed and edited via a Web browser. The data is stored on a remote server. Internet-based PHRs may have the capability to print information, backup data, import data from other information systems, and share information with health care providers.

Internet-based PHRs are subject to physical loss and damage of the Web server. Internet-based PHRs may be vulnerable to unauthorized access via Internet or other data connections. Internet-based PHRs have the advantage of being accessible from any location with an Internet connection with a suitable Web browser.

Portable-Storage PHR: Personal health information is recorded and stored on a portable-storage device such as a CDROM, DVD, smart card, or USB flash drive. Some portable-storage PHRs provide features such as history editing, data encryption, data importation, and data sharing with health care providers.

Portable-storage PHRs are subject to physical loss and damage of the storage device. One of the disadvantages of portable-storage PHRs is that many computers at physician offices and hospitals cannot read and update these PHRs.However,the new generation portable personal health record manager can be used as a free standing application without the need for specialized software.

Sponsors of PHRs Edit

PHR programs are structured in the same basic way a consumer credit report is structured, in that consumers may obtain a PHR from various sponsoring organizations. Some PHRs are marketed directly to the consumer by the product vendor. The direct-to-consumer PHRs often require the consumer to pay a fee for registering a new account. Other PHRs are offered by health care organizations such as hospitals. Frequently, these hospital-based PHRs are integrated with other information systems owned by the health care delivery organization such as its EHR or laboratory information systems. Recently, PHRs are being offered to people by employers and health insurance companies, however it is unclear if the PHR is transportable or transferable if a person switches jobs or insurance companies.

Research on PHRs Edit

Numerous articles have been published in the health literature about personal health records; however, few of these articles describe studies that evaluated the benefits of PHRs. Thus, little evidence currently exists to verify the benefits of PHRs.[5]

Bibliography Edit


  1. Agarwal R, Angst CM. Technology-enabled transformations in U.S. health care: early findings on personal health records and individual use,” In Galletta G, Zhang P, (Eds.), Human-Computer Interaction and Management Information Systems: Applications (Vol. 5). Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., pp. 357-378. 2006.
  2. Lewis D, Eysenbach G, Kukafka R, Stavri PZ, Jimison H. Consumer health informatics: informing consumers and improving health care. New York: Springer. 2005.

Journal Articles

  1. [No authors listed]. Computerisation of personal health records. Health Visit. Jun 1978. 51(6); 227. Medline
  2. [No authors listed]. Recordkeeping systems: personal health records. J Am Med Rec Assoc. Dec 1984. 55(12); 42. Medline
  3. [No authors listed]. [Personal medical records and identification card, synchronized information systems]. Rev Infirm. Dec 2004. 106; 45-6. Medline
  4. [No authors listed]. Information prescriptions (Ix): bringing Internet-based health content into the treatment process; patients to your site. Internet Healthc Strateg. Apr 2005. 7(4); 4-8. Medline
  5. [No authors listed]. Report on attitudes about personal health records. Internet Healthc Strateg. May 2005. 6(9); 10-11. Medline
  6. [No authors listed]. New-age PHR comes with decision-support, multiple opportunities for DM. Dis Manag Advis. Dec 2006. 12(12); 140-2. Medline
  7. [No authors listed]. Personal health record: new opportunity for patient education. Orthop Nurs. 2007 May-Jun;26(3):192-3. Medline
  8. [No authors listed]. Readers' perspective. Personal health records will be widely used within five years, supplanting the need for regional health information organizations. Health Data Manag. 2007 Oct;15(10):8. Medline
  9. Ackerman MJ. The personal health record. J Med Pract Manage. 2007 Sep-Oct;23(2):84-5. Medline
  10. Adler KG. Web Portals in Primary Care: An Evaluation of Patient Readiness and Willingness to Pay for Online Services. J Med Internet Res. Aug 2006. 8(4); e26.
  11. AHIMA e-HIM Personal Health Record Work Group. Defining the personal health record. J AHIMA. Jun 2005. 76(6); 24-25.
  12. AHIMA e-HIM Personal Health Record Work Group. Practice brief. The role of the personal health record in the EHR. J AHIMA. Jul 2005. 76(7); 64A-64D. Medline
  13. Albright B. Prepping for PHRs. The growing trend of consumer empowerment includes the speedy rise of personal health records. Healthc Inform. Feb 2007. 24(2); 44, 46. Medline
  14. American Health Information Management Association, American Medical Informatics Association. The value of personal health records. A joint position statement for consumers of healthcare. J AHIMA. Oct 2006. 77(9); 24.
  15. American Health Information Management Association, American Medical Informatics Association. The value of personal health records. A joint position statement for consumers of healthcare. J AHIMA. 2007 Apr;78(4):22, 24.
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  47. Kardas G, Tunali ET. Design and implementation of a smart card based healthcare information system. Comput Methods Programs Biomed. Jan 2006. 81(1); 66-78.
  48. Kim E, Mayani A, Modi S, Kim Y, Soh C. Evaluation of patient-centered electronic health record to overcome digital divide. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2005. 2;593-6.
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  53. Kupchunas WR. Personal health record: new opportunity for patient education. Orthop Nurs. 2007 May-Jun;26(3):185-91. Medline
  54. Kun LG. Homecare and disease prevention: reviewing a decade of evolution - privacy still the biggest hurdle. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2006;1:4685. Medline
  55. Lafky DB, Tulu B, Horan TA. A user-driven approach to personal health records. Communications of the Association for Information Systems. Jun 2006. 17(46).
  56. Lee M, Delaney C, Moorhead S. Building a personal health record from a nursing perspective. Int J Med Inform. 2007 Jul 4; [Epub ahead of print]. Medline
  57. Lin CT, Wittevrongel L, Moore L, Beaty BL, Ross SE. An Internet-based patient-provider communication system: randomized controlled trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research. Aug 2005. 7(4); e47.
  58. Lober WB, Zierler B, Herbaugh AL, Shinstrom SE, Stolyar A, Kim EH, Kim Y. Barriers to the use of a Personal Health Record by an Elderly Population. AMIA Annu Symp Proc. 2006. 514-8.
  59. Lowes R. Personal health records: What's the status now? Med Econ. Feb 2006. 83(4); TCP 13-4,16.
  60. Lu SC. CCR Exchange: Building a Patient-Driven Web-Based Healthcare Community Around an Emerging Personal Health Record Standard. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2007;127:58-64. Medline
  61. Masys D, Baker D, Butros A, Cowles K. Giving patients access to their medical records via the Internet. Journal of American Medical Informatics Association. Mar 2002. 9(2); 181-191.
  62. McSherry B. Access to confidential medical records by courts and tribunals: the inapplicability of the doctrine of public interest immunity. J Law Med. Aug 2006. 14(1); 15-9.
  63. Moen A, Brennan PF. Health@Home: the work of health information management in the household (HIMH): implications for consumer health informatics (CHI) innovations. JAMIA. Nov 2005. 12(6); 648-56.
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  65. Morrissey J. But what does the public think?: For consumers to adopt PHRs, they need reasons that hit home. Journal of AHIMA. Nov 2005. 76(10); 42-44.
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  76. Rahul Shetty: Portable Digital Personal Health Record : To Bridge the Digital gap in Medical Information Storage of Individuals with Personal Health Records in Flash Drives. The Internet Journal of Health. 2007. Volume 5 Number 2.
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  78. Rocha RA, Romeo AN, Norlin C. Core Features of a Parent-controlled Pediatric Medical Home Record. Stud Health Technol Inform. 2007;129:997-1001. Medline
  79. Roop L. Technology. Big business charges ahead with personal health records. Hosp Health Netw. Feb 2007. 81(2); 17. Medline
  80. Ross SE, Lin C. The effects of promoting patient access to medical records: a review. JAMIA. Mar 2003. 10(2); 129-138.
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  91. Tang PC, Ash JS, Bates DW, Overhage JM, Sands DZ. Personal health records: definitions, benefits, and strategies for overcoming barriers to adoption. Journal of Medical Informatics Association. Mar 2006. 13(2); 121-126.
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Conference Proceedings

  1. Angst CM, Agarwal, R, Downing, J. An empirical examination of the importance of defining the PHR for research and for practice,” Proceedings of the 41st Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. Jan 2008.
  2. Cimino JJ, Li J, Mendoca EA, Sengupta S, Patel VL, Kuhniruk AW. An evaluation of patient access to their electronic medical records via the World Wide Web. AMIA Symposium. Sep 2000.
  3. Dorr DA, Rowan B, Weed M, James B, Clayton P. Physicians' attitudes regarding patient access to electronic medical records. AMIA Symposium Proceedings. Nov 2003. 832. Medline
  4. Iakovidis I. From electronic medical record to personal health records: present situation and trends in European Union in the area of electronic healthcare records. Medinfo. Sep 1998. 9(1 suppl); 18-22.
  5. Ross S, Lin CT. A randomized controlled trial of a patient accessible medical record. AMIA 2003 Symposium Proceedings. Sep 2003. 990.
  6. Stroetmann KA, Pieper M, Stroetmann VN. Understanding patients: participatory approaches for the user evaluation of vital data presentation. ACM Conference on Universal Usability; Proceedings of the 2003 Conference on Universal Usability . Nov 2003. 93-97.
  7. Wuerdeman L, Volk L, Pizziferri L, Tsurikova R, Harris C, Feygin R, Epstein M, Meyers K, Wald JS, Lansky D, Bates DW. How accurate is information that patients contribute to their Electronic Health Record? AMIA Annu Symp Proc. Oct 2005. 834-8.


  1. America’s Health Insurance Plans. Consumer and provider focus groups on PHR. Unpublished. Jan 2005.
  2. Angst CM, Agarwal R, Downing J. An empirical examination of the importance of defining the PHR for research and for practice. Robert H. Smith School Research Paper. May 2006. RHS-06-011.
  3. California Health Care Foundation. National consumer health privacy survey 2005. Nov 2005.
  4. Canedy JT. SimplyWell PHR. AHIC Consumer Empowerment Workgroup Meeting 7/23/06. Jul 2006.
  5. Connecting for Health. Americans want benefits of personal health records Jun 2003.
  6. Connecting for Health. The personal health working group. Jul 2003.
  7. Connecting for Health. Connecting Americans to their Healthcare final report: working group on policies for electronic information sharing between doctors and patients. Jul 2004.
  8. Connecting for Health. Connecting Americans to Their Health Care: A Common Framework for Networked Personal Health Information. Dec 2006.
  9. Department of Health and Human Services. Standards for privacy of individually identifiable health information. Federal Register. Dec 2000. Billing Code 4150-05M; 82461-82829 (45 CFR Parts 160-164).
  10. Detmer D, Steen E. Learning from abroad: lessons and questions on personal health records for national policy. AARP. Mar 2006.
  11. Haslmaier EF. Health care information technology – getting the policy right. Web Memo – Heritage Foundation. Jun 2006. No. 1131.
  12. Markle Foundation. Attitudes of Americans regarding personal health records and nationwide electronic health information exchange: key findings from two surveys of Americans. Oct 2005.
  13. Miller RH, Sim I. Physicians' use of electronic medical records: barriers and solutions. California HealthCare Foundation. Mar 2004. 116-126.
  14. Skewes JL. Shared Health, Inc. AHIC Consumer Empowerment Workgroup Meeting 7/23/06. Jul 2006.
  15. Taylor H. Two in five adults keep personal or family health records and almost everybody think this is a good idea. Harris Interactive. Aug 2004.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. (No authors listed) Computerization of personal health records: definitions, benefits, and strategies for overcoming barriers to adoption. Health Visit. 1978 June;51(6):227.
  2. Connecting for Health. The Personal Health Working Group Final Report. July 1, 2003.
  3. American Health Information Management Association. The Role of the Personal Health Record in the EHR. July 25, 2005.
  4. America's Health Insurance Plans. What are Personal Health Records (PHRs)? December 13, 2006.
  5. Tang PC, Ash JS, Bates DW, Overhage JM, Sands DZ. Personal health records: definitions, benefits, and strategies for overcoming barriers to adoption. J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2006 Mar-Apr;13(2):121-6.

External links Edit

  • MyPHR - Directory of PHR products that are currently available on the market. The American Health Information Management Association sponsors this site.

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