Recently I completed a consultation on a new patient. This person had moved to San Francisco a few years ago, and was not sure he was satisfied with the care he was obtaining from his new PCP.
The consultation was a bit challenging for me, because I had no past medical records available to review. Nothing from the old cadre of doctors on the East Coast, nothing from the current PCP, not even anything from a recent hospitalization. No laboratory results, no studies.
(In truth, I usually decline to schedule an initial consultation until some of this information is available. I need this type of information in order to do my work assessing the person’s health and the current medical management plan.)
As I often do, I encouraged this patient and his family to start maintaining a personal health record (PHR): some kind of collection of his key medical information, all in one place and under their control. I explained that this would be a huge help if they wanted to
- Obtain second opinions when necessary
- Transfer to a new PCP
- Be able to check on how the chronic conditions were being managed and consider other options
- Get better medical care in the event of an emergency or possibly even while traveling
In its simplest form, a PHR is a collection of papers kept in a binder or perhaps file cabinet. Paper can be hard to keep organized, however, and can only be searched effectively if everything was first filed in an organized fashion.
So a digital approach would seem to be in order. Digital information is easier to search, and often more portable than paper information.
But I was annoyed to find that yet again, after recommending this family set up and maintain a PHR, I couldn’t actually recommend a specific product or service. This was surprising to me, because it was almost three years ago that I wrote this article for the Geriatrics for Caregivers Blog: Tools for Caregivers: Keeping & Organizing Medical Information.
Yet today, I still cannot recommend a tool that will do the following: [Read more…]