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EHR vs. PHR: How are they different and how can you access your data?


The electronic health record (EHR) has evolved over the past 10 years, going from simply digitized paper records to a broad collection of medical data. EHRs now include data from diagnostic and laboratory tests to past treatments and physical attributes.

Government regulations mandated healthcare providers move to digital health records by 2014. Today, the health industry must show EHRs not only capture and share medical data, but show improved outcomes through its use. While many organizations go above and beyond what is required, others have been slow to adopt. Many individuals, in an effort to take control of their health data, have begun to collect their personal health data into a PHR system.

The differences between your EHR and PHR

There are distinct differences between the EHRs that house your medical data and personal health records or PHRs.

Ten years ago, systems such as Google Health and Microsoft HealthVault relied on individuals to enter all of their own data. While empowering, it was also cumbersome and a burden on the patient. Both systems have since been shuttered. Some had proposed these systems connect to hospital systems to gather medical data, but at that time most hospitals had not yet adopted electronic health systems.

Since government regulations have since brought most health care providers into the EHR era, this has led to a new generation of PHRs that allow individuals to access and connect to their health data. Most commonly cited is the patient portal, a type of tethered PHR. This web-based (and sometimes in a limited fashion, mobile) extension of the EHR allows individuals to securely access their medical data.

While this is a step in the right direction,  it still relies on maintaining a connection to the existing hospital system and does not make the data truly portable. A new generation of PHRs, such as those being enabled by Apple Health Records, and available in the doc.ai app, is allowing individuals to download the data from patient portals directly to their mobile devices, becoming a truly portable, untethered PHR.

Additional digital tools, such as health trackers and applications, have empowered patients to collect a range of health information. Paired with access to their medical records through patient portals and platforms such as doc.ai, individuals are able to develop a comprehensive health record for themselves.

PHR connected to EHR: A partnership with your health provider

There are more than 300 healthcare institutions, to date, that allow patients to view their health records on the Apple Health app. The University of California health system alone has provided its five million patients access to download their health data to the Apple Health app.

In a recent study, researchers found that 90 percent of early adopters at UC San Diego Health reported they had better understanding of their own health, shared health information with friends and family, and facilitated conversations with their doctors.

But you shouldn’t rely on your health provider to house all of your health data in their EHR. For one, you may have several EHRs scattered throughout different health providers. Integrating a patient’s various EHRs so they talk to each other is still a goal some institutions haven’t been able to fulfill.

Many patients have taken their health data into their own hands to collect, analyze and work with their healthcare providers to develop actionable insights.

Take action and get organized with your personal health data

PHRs can help you track and access your health goals, such as taking action to lower your blood pressure. It can also provide data to help you prepare questions for your next doctor appointment. For example, has your weight steadily increased since your last visit? Has your sleep quality decreased? It can also be an opportunity to share medical data among your healthcare providers.

Keeping an up-to-date PHR can also help you be better organized with your health data by tracking all of your medical appointments, vaccinations, diagnostic screenings and medications. This can be essential for those who have a chronic condition or who have multiple providers.

Having an easily accessible PHR could also be potentially life-saving during international travel, when medical records, medications, allergies and other health data is essential when time is short.

For caregivers, it can also be crucial when you’re keeping track of more than just your own health data. If you’re caring for children, elderly parents or other dependents, a PHR can help track appointments, treatments and medications, screening, vaccinations and coordinate care, which could lead to early diagnosis or prevent illness in vulnerable patients.

Keeping your PHR accessible and integrated

Once you make the decision to empower yourself by optimizing your PHR, you’ll need to decide how to manage it. Doc.ai gives users one place to view and take action with their health records on their personal smartphone while also connecting in their patient portal and application records. Many users connect their doc.ai accounts to their Apple Health application, which automatically transfers health data from your phone directly to doc.ai.

By integrating your personal health record, doc.ai provides a comprehensive picture of your modern health record. It keeps your health records up to date by allowing easy and swift integration not only with health portals and applications, but also consumer health test results (such as an AncestryDNA or 23andMe DNA test) and also environmental, biometric data among others which we call “omics”. Overtime we are working on connecting the dots between all these omics to push personal insights.

A recent analysis found that patients are concerned not only with usability of their medical data, but privacy. Because your PHR is stored using data processing on your phone alone, with doc.ai, you own and have access to your data.

Sharing your PHR for medical research

With innovative patient consents and the ability to mine de-identified medical data, researchers are making scientific discoveries by identifying trends and predictive models in large EHR data sets. And many patients are willing to share their health data for science--as long as it’s de-identified and and their privacy respected and their data secure.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2018, less than 8 percent of individuals surveyed felt that the potential negative consequences of sharing their medical data outweighed the benefit. More than 80 percent of respondents were willing to share their medical data with scientists.

With doc.ai, sharing your PHR with medical researchers to advance medical research is made easy and securely. Learn more about health research at doc.ai here.

Reviewing your EHR for mistakes and out-of-date information is important to prevent medical errors and overlooked issues. But it’s also equally important to keep your PHR current and share concerns and questions about your PHR with your health provider. Until medical institutions are able to master the goal of having EHRs talk to each other and share data throughout the health system, that responsibility may ultimately sit with you. So, make the most of your data with doc.ai.

There is nothing more precious than your health data. Our doc.ai technologies are built to serve our core values of ownership and privacy meaning you always have full visibility and are in maximum control of your data at all times, and who you share your data with, should be up to you.  No caveats. No compromises. See our Privacy policy.

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