Electronic Health Records: A Powerful Tool to Take Control of Your Health
When we think about our health, we may focus on what’s exciting or urgent, and tend to overlook one important element: our electronic health records.
Accessing our electronic health records (often called EHR, or electronic medical records/EMR) is a relatively new capability in the medical field, but the practice is rapidly growing. In 2004, only 20% of people in the United States accessed their EHR. As of 2021, that number jumped to nearly 90%.
What are electronic health records?
Simply put, electronic health records are a central, digital place where patients and providers can access the same, up-to-date information about our health status, diagnoses, treatment histories, lab results, medications, and upcoming health needs, among other things.
Making electronic health records work for patients
As EHRs were introduced, public conversation centered mostly on the benefits to providers and hospital systems, who made higher-quality medical decisions due to increased clarity and access. But what about patients?
Accessing our own EHRs enables us to have the same information as our providers 24 hours a day, making us better advocates for our own needs. It also empowers us to make decisions with our providers, rather than having providers make decisions for us. It’s our health, after all.
- Eliminate unnecessary paperwork: Most EHR systems allow you to clearly see your health history alongside your billing and appointment details, making it easier to track, plan and pay for health related events.
- Coordinate among providers: Allowing all of your providers to access your EHR means that you won’t have to remember and relay information - they’ll have the most accurate details at their fingertips, to make the best decision possible for your care. This can help reduce the need for duplicating tests, vaccinations, and imaging.
- Access your health records 24/7: It’s easy to check vaccinations before traveling, see when your next appointment is, and remember medication details when you can access your records on a personal device.
- Faster results of lab tests: Often, lab results will appear on our EHRs faster than our providers will call us, so may get a heads up on the results before the conversation.
Here are simple ways to get started:
- Ask your healthcare provider for access to their patient portal–a secure website where you can access your personal health information.
- They’ll send you a link to their online patient portal. Simply register by creating a username and password.
- Once registered, you will be able to login and view information to help you make better health decisions, such as your medical records, family history, allergies, prescriptions, lab results, immunization history, insurance and billing information.
Curious about accessing your EHRs? Check out this overview on HealthIT.gov to get started.