In the past, medical information was seen as the property of healthcare professionals, who used their discretion to share information with patients. However, there has been a recent shift towards viewing medical information as the right of the patient – a shift that has been formalized by the establishment of Ontario’s Personal Health Information Protection Act (2004). Now, the idea of information transparency with patients has been taken to the extreme with the introduction of the concept of Personal Health Records.
In essence, Personal Health Records are electronic records containing private medical information. The information is updated by hospitals or healthcare providers, and can be accessed immediately online by their patients through secure logins. Personal Health Records bring patient involvement and empowerment to a new level. Patients can become more involved in their healthcare, as they can investigate and research their results before speaking with their doctors. In addition, patients with conditions that require multiple visits to the doctor can reduce the frequency of their appointments by simply checking their results online. In the big picture, healthcare specialists see PHR’s as the beginning of a new era of heightened patient education and remote monitoring.
Of course, PHR’s do come at a price. The initial setup of a PHR system is a sizable task and is outside the feasible scope of many private healthcare providers. In addition, its upkeep adds yet another responsibility to providers. Lastly, healthcare professionals must keep in mind that not all information is appropriate to share via PHR. For instance, devastating news that would be better received in person with the presence and support of a loved one should be reserved for the doctor’s office.In the end, it seems that PHR’s are the way of the future for healthcare in Canada. Healthcare professionals agree that PHR’s are successful in empowering patients and significantly improving their quality of care. Despite the challenge of set-up and maintenance, Canadians view this as a long-term investment, and our healthcare professionals are currently pushing forward in the movement to increase the use of PHR’s in the healthcare system.