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Personal Health Records Save Time and Lives

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Author: ARA

(ARA) - You get sick on vacation. You get hurt in an accident. You need medication but can't remember which kind. Your ability to receive the safest and quickest treatment can hinge on having access to your personal medical information and successfully getting it to your doctor. Information that can answer questions like: What prescription medications are you taking? What's the dosage? Do you have any allergies? What medical procedures and tests have you had, and when?

      In urgent circumstances - and as a part of day to day living - there is great value in having easy access to this information through a secure, online personal health record, any time of day or night, regardless of your doctor's office hours. An increasing number of insurance companies offer Personal Health Records (PHR) to consumers as an easy way to create and preserve a comprehensive summary of their health conditions, medications, medical procedures and lab results.

      In many cases you can simply log in to your secure online account anywhere, anytime, to view and print out your PHR that includes information you and your health care professionals need. In fact this fall, UnitedHealth Group's "integrated health card" makes it even easier to access the PHR. When consumers present their card at their physicians' office, a hospital or emergency room, a simple swipe through a standard card reader provides immediate access to critical health and insurance information. This can be especially valuable in emergency situations.

      Despite the benefits of using Personal Health Records, a recent Harris Interactive survey commissioned by UnitedHealth Group found that among a cross section of Americans, 35 percent weren't even aware that such a service existed. Archelle Georgiou, M.D., executive vice president of Specialized Care Services, a segment of UnitedHealth Group, encourages consumers access their Personal Health Records and to share them with their physicians.

      "We know from experience that consumer-friendly, integrated and comprehensive health records result in more informed, safer, and cost-effective decisions between patients and their health care professionals," Dr. Georgiou said.

      You might have heard of Personal Health Records. Here are some features they provide which promote good health for you and your family.

      * Immunization records to enroll in school or play school sports

      Personal Health records can provide you with 24/7 access to immunization records, sports physical results and medication guidelines. The UnitedHealth Group survey found that on average, parents who need to access a child's personal health and medical information do so at least five times a year.

* Holidays/Vacations/Travel

      According to the Travel Industry Association of America, Americans will take more than 251 million trips during the upcoming winter months alone. When you're far from home (and your family physician), access to Personal Health Records add an extra measure of protection should you need emergency care or prescription refills.

* Severe Weather/Disaster Preparedness

      In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina physicians like Douglas Henley, M.D., executive vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), reflected on how Personal Health Records could have helped victims who were injured or displaced. "Then, whether they ended up in Houston or Baton Rouge or God knows where, they would have had that information with them, and any physician or hospital could have seen their past medical histories," he said. Your Personal Health Record preserves your medical history online when the records you keep at home or in the doctor's office are destroyed.

* Coordination of Care

      Personal Health Records are a comprehensive, consistent, portable medical history you can provide to new, multiple, or specializing physicians to coordinate the best care possible. It also helps prevent costly duplicate tests and dangerous drug interactions. The UnitedHealth Group survey also found more than 80 percent of Americans rely on their doctor's office as their primary method of storing the medical history. But each health care provider (family physician, orthodontist, OB-GYN) compiles their own separate record of your medical history which are not always shared between physicians.

* Health Insurance Re-enrollment

      Your secure, online account provides ready access to detailed health information when you have to fill out multiple insurance applications.

      There is always a need for personal health information - from a few details to a comprehensive history. And now, the technology is available to provide it 24/7. For more information on Personal Health Records, contact your health insurer or log on to

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