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ARTICLE Personal Health Records

Millions of Americans are missing an opportunity with free Personal Health Records

Each fall, millions of people have the opportunity to give their health benefits a checkup during what is often referred to as the "open enrollment" period. One thing you should be sure to research when choosing your health plan for next year: does the insurer provide a free personal health record (PHR) to all its members?

In today's digital world, it is surprising that more people don't have easier access to their health information. People routinely access personal information like bank statements with the click of a mouse, and shopping online has almost become second nature. However, most of us still rely on paper files, which are spread across multiple doctors' offices and hospitals, to keep track of and coordinate our health information. In an emergency, gathering all this crucial data may be next to impossible.

The New York Times recently reported that only about 20 percent of Americans have computerized health records rather than paper ones, despite many health organizations like UnitedHealthcare providing free online personal health records to its members.

Secure, web-based PHRs offer an online "lockbox" that will help you organize and control your and your family's health records. Information can include lab tests, allergies, childhood immunizations, prescription doses, past surgeries and diagnoses, and family medical history. In fact, for many PHRs much of this information is automatically populated into the health record for you through claims data.

Having a portable health record that's available anytime, anywhere is valuable when coordinating your medical history across multiple doctors, can help prevent duplicate testing and enhances patient safety by reducing the chance of medication errors.

Here's how you can to take control of your family's health history.

  • To create or access your Personal Health Record, please log in to Once logged in, click the "Personal Health Record" link located near the top of the page. If you are not a UnitedHealthcare member, use a PHR from a trusted site such as
  • Collect all of the health information that you may have stored in your files, baby books, sticky notes or shoe boxes and begin to create your personal health record. Ask your health care providers for any information you are missing. Most PHRs walk you through a step-by-step process to create a record.
  • Talk to your parents and siblings and other family members about important family medical history. Add this information as well.
  • Review your PHR with your primary care physician to be sure you are not receiving duplicate medications or unnecessary testing from multiple doctors.
  • Print a hard copy of your PHR and share it with your physician at your next appointment.
  • Give a hard copy of the PHR to your son or daughter if they're away at college, or to their coach, teacher or other adult supervisor if they're traveling without you.
  • Establish a routine for regularly updating your family's PHRs so that it stays up to date.

This year, make open enrollment season a health event, and not an administrative event. Create a personal health record for each member of your family, and take control of your health.