Have medical records at your fingertips - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Have medical records at your fingertips

Imagine being rushed to the emergency room. Within seconds, you or your loved ones need to remember all of your medical history. Would you know it? Would they? What if something gets left out?

Now, there's a high-tech way to keep all there is to know about you in a single place and, basically, right at your fingertips.

Pamela Hellen says her mother's medications change all the time. She worries some information might not get passed along from one doctor to another. So for years, she lugged records around to appointments. "The folder gets huge as the person that you're creating the records for gets older."

Fed up with the massive paper trail, Pamela signed up for a computer service that organizes all the information into something called a personal health record, or P-H-R. "Everything is on there from her date of birth, her personal information, all her meds, everything." Even a list of her health care providers and medical conditions.

Since it's web-based, the P-H-R can be accessed anywhere there's a computer with a simple log-in. "She was in the emergency room and it came in very handy." said Hellen.

Pamela uses a company called "follow me", one of a handful of companies now offering electronic record keeping.

"Today most of our health information is spread across multiple providers. A personal health record can really be that important compilation." Health information expert Linda Kloss says many deadly medical mistakes could be prevented if doctors simply had more information. "There's a danger if an emergency room physician doesn't know what medications you're on." said Kloss.

A P-H-R can help during office visits, too. Some programs allow you to upload scans and lab results to help avoid duplicate tests. Web M-D's health manager even provides automated safety checks. "We can also do some pretty smart things on checking for any drug interactions that might occur between their medications." said Dr. Phillip Marshall.

There are also programs that allow you to keep your records on your personal computer only, and transfer them to a portable flash drive when needed. George Brown uses one called CapMed. "You can take that from your computer and take it into the doctor's office, plug it into their USB port, and you have control over what you want them to see."

Privacy advocates stress security is important. Make sure your information is password protected and that there are firewalls. Also know who will have access to your information and whether it can be sold to a third party. "Make sure that they know whether or not the company plans on or has the ability to share or exchange their information." said Emily Stewart with the Health Privacy Project.

Costs vary from company to company. The web-based services charge an annual fee. The leading companies we looked into ran from $25-30 a year. Capmed is a one-time 75- dollar charge.

Personal health record companies we included in this report:

WebMD Health Manager

FollowMe

CapMed

Laxor

Vital Vault

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