Resolve to stay connected with your doctor through your personal health record
By Ron Fickel, MD
Family medicine physician
Who doesn’t have at least one resolution related to better health? Saying no to soft drinks or yes to a new workout are worthy goals for any season. There is another way to manage your health: Use your personal health record to stay connected with your doctor’s office.
Communication about your health should be a two-way endeavor. The more information you and your doctors have about your health, the better it is for your well-being.
An online personal health record such as ProHealth Care’s MyChart is a secure, private, 24/7 portal to your medical information. You can use it to view your medical test and screening results, immunization history and office visit summaries. You can also see upcoming visits, request or cancel an appointment, request medication refills and submit health-related questions and updates to your doctor.
By reviewing your health record, you can check your progress toward a goal such as losing weight or lowering cholesterol. Interactive links send you directly to online education as well.
Your doctor’s office also uses this system to remind you about flu shots, physicals or screenings. You can send in updates, too. Have you started or stopped a prescribed or over-the-counter medication? Your doctor needs to know so you can be treated effectively and safely.
Many health care organizations also offer digital access to medical notes under a concept called OpenNotes. Notes are part of your medical record and are written by doctors, advanced practice providers, therapists or other health professionals to summarize your care plan after an office visit. When patients are invited to read them, they become open notes.
Notes provide an understanding of your health from your provider’s perspective. They can also be used to start a conversation you’d like to have with your doctor to assist you in better understanding your health and care needs.
Research has found that patients who reviewed their notes from their physicians:
Have more knowledge of their health and medical conditions.
Recall their care plan more accurately.
Are better prepared for doctor’s office visits.
Feel more in control of their care.
Take better care of themselves.
More frequently take their medications as prescribed.
Have better conversations and stronger relationships with their doctors.
Notes can be viewed digitally only if they have been made available electronically by your provider. They usually date back to the time your health care organization created its open notes policy. For earlier notes, a formal request may be required. Most organizations have information about requesting medical records on their websites.
Privacy laws prohibit the sharing of notes for adolescents ages 13 through 17. However, if a patient 18 or older grants proxy access to another individual, that individual will be able to view available notes.
Online health care information and connectivity give you an important picture of your well-being. Information about each visit, test or prescription is a snapshot of your health at a moment in time. Your entire record is an album of your health, goals, care and results.
Use your record to help prepare for doctor’s visits. Review the information from your last visit to see what you need to discuss.
Contact your doctor’s office to provide updates about any changes in your:
When you are actively engaged in your health care, you are a true partner in your health outcomes. Now is a good time to make staying connected with your doctor’s office a habit, not just another resolution.