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Benefits, Risks, and Drawbacks of an Electronic Personal Health Record

November 8, 2016
Posted by: Jamie Zacher, PharmD

A personal health record (PHR) is used by patients to collect, maintain, and share all current and past medical information. This is in comparison to a medical health record which is owned and maintained by a health care system, institution or government payer. Let’s look at how a patient may determine if an ePHR is right for them.

Benefits of an Electronic PHR

There are a number of benefits from maintaining an ePHR. To begin with, having an ePHR makes a patient’s PHR easily accessible from anywhere via a web-enabled device at any time. (1) Patients can access their ePHR by computer, phone or tablet as long as they have an internet connection. This may be especially important in emergency situations. Having all records in an electronic format makes it easy to share a patient’s medical history, including chronic conditions, medications, and allergies, with emergency personnel.

Another advantage is an ePHR can help a patient make the most of doctor visits. (2)  Some patients may track their blood glucose or blood pressure and an ePHR makes it easier to record and share this information with their doctor, pharmacist or any member of their health care team at any time. Patients can also instantly share any past medical information when seeing a new doctor or using a new pharmacy.

Patients can also use an ePHR to track and manage their health between clinic visits. (3)  Patients would make notes of their doctor’s instructions or how to take their medication. Some blood glucose machines or blood pressure machines may be able to automatically upload results to an ePHR for tracking and monitoring. Patients can then monitor results in their ePHR to reach personal health goals.

Finally an ePHR can help get patients organized. (4)  Having all medical information in one place is important. Patients can use an ePHR to manage all of their medical information instead of having files in multiple locations.

Risks and Drawbacks of an Electronic PHR

Although there are many benefits to an ePHR, there are some risks and drawbacks. For example, it may be difficult and time consuming to collect all current and past medical information. (5)  Patients may need to request information from multiple healthcare providers and pharmacies to get a complete medical history. Some information, such as vaccination records, may date back to childhood. Gathering all past medical information is very important, yet it can be very overwhelming for patients and they may not know where to begin. Then, once the information is obtained, patients must make sure to take that extra step and enter it in their ePHR.

Another drawback is that in order to keep the ePHR current, patients must make sure to always update it whenever they have a medical appointment, have tests done, receive a new diagnosis or have prescriptions filled. (6)  An ePHR is most beneficial when all of the information is current. If patients do not use their ePHR often, they can easily forget to update when necessary.

Finally, many patients may be concerned about the security and privacy of ePHRs. (7)  An ePHR can contain very sensitive information and patients may be concerned about who can access that information. Patients should do their research before selecting an ePHR platform to use to make sure it meets all of their needs while still providing the security and privacy they desire.

At the end of the day, each individual must decide if an ePHR is the right choice for them for managing their health information. In an upcoming blog, I will discuss the future of ePHRs.


1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

2. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

3. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

5. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

6. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/personal-health-record/art-20047273

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