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Technology Available to Help Manage Your Health Care

Improve the quality and coordination of your health care

By Medicare | May 14, 2012

Health information technology (health IT) lets you manage your health information, improve how you communicate with your health care providers, and improve the quality and coordination of your health care.

Some health IT tools are designed for health care providers, while others are made for people with Medicare.

Technology Your Health Care Providers Use

Electronic health records (EHRs)

An EHR is a safe and confidential record your doctor, other health care provider, medical office staff, or a hospital keeps on a computer about your health care or treatments. EHRs let your providers share up-to-date information about your conditions, treatments, tests and prescriptions. If your providers use EHRs, they can join a network to securely share your records with each other. EHRs help cut down on medical errors and can keep you from getting duplicate tests.

Electronic prescribing

Electronic prescribing lets prescribers write and send your prescriptions directly to your pharmacy.

Electronic prescribing can save you money, time, and help keep you safe:

  •     You don't have to drop off and wait for your pharmacist to fill your prescription-it may be ready when you arrive.
  •     Prescribers can check which drugs your insurance covers and prescribe a drug that costs you less.
  •     Electronic prescriptions are easier for the pharmacist to read than handwritten prescriptions, so there's less chance you'll get the wrong drug or dose.
  •     Prescribers have secure access to your prescription history, so they can be alerted to potential drug interactions, allergies and other warnings.
Personal Health Records

A personal health record is a record with information about your health that you or someone helping you keeps for easy reference using a computer. You control the health information in your PHR and can get to it anywhere at any time with Internet access.

PHRs use secure technology to protect your information from being seen without permission. You'll get a unique user ID and password. You control who can see your information.

Why use PHRs?
  • You keep all your health information in one place, making it easier to find information about your recent health services and conditions and share it with your providers, caregivers and family members.
  • PHRs help providers get the information they need to treat you in an emergency by quickly sharing information on your medications, allergies and emergency contacts. You can let others have access to your PHR for just this situation.
  • PHRs help you avoid getting duplicate procedures or tests, saving you both time and money.
  • If you have Internet access, you can update your PHR and keep your personal information current.
  • Some PHRs let you refill prescriptions, schedule appointments, email your doctor, and learn more about your condition and medications.
  • Some independent companies create and maintain PHRs for you. If you give them permission, they may be able to get your health information from your doctor or health plan.
Who offers PHRs?
  • PHRs are often offered by providers, health plans, and private companies. Some are free, while others charge fees.
  • Some independent companies create and maintain PHRs for you. If you give them permission, they may be able to get your health information from your doctor or health plan.
  • If your doctor or health plan doesn't offer a PHR, check what's available from other companies at myPHR.com.
Is my health information private and secure in a PHR?

Special permissions or passwords let you choose who can access your PHR so others can get your critical information quickly. When you use a PHR, make sure it's on a secure Web site. With a secure Web site, you usually have to create a unique user ID and password, and the information you type is encrypted (put in code) so other people can't read it.

What should I keep in a PHR?
  • Personal information, like your name, birth date and current address.
  • Names and phone numbers of people to contact in an emergency.
  • Names, addresses and phone numbers of your doctors, including specialists and dentists.
  • Health insurance information, like the name of your insurance company and key phone numbers for service (if you have other insurance in addition to Medicare).
  • Current medications and dosages.
  • Allergies (to foods, drugs and other substances).
  • Important events, dates and hereditary conditions in your family history.
  • A list and dates of significant illnesses and surgical procedures.
  • Results from recent doctor visits.
  • Important tests results; eye and dental records, immunization records.
  • Any information you want to include about your health-such as your exercise regimen, any over-the-counter or herbal medications you take, and any counseling you may get.
What should I ask when choosing a PHR?
  • What kind of information can I store? Will it let me keep information on my medical conditions (diagnoses), procedures, allergies and medications?
  • Can I use it to import my claims or medical information from my health plan and/or doctors?
  • Does it offer features such as the ability to print a list of my medications or conditions?
  • Can I allow my doctors or family members to look at my PHR for me?
  • Does it offer links to health education information?
  • If a doctor offers a PHR, can I use it to refill my prescriptions or make appointments?
  • Do I have to pay a monthly or annual fee? Do I have to pay for the features I want?
  • What happens to my PHR information if I leave a health plan or change doctors?
  • What happens to my information if the company that offers the PHR goes out of business or becomes part of another company?
  • What are the PHR's privacy and security policies? There are Federal and state laws that protect the privacy and security of your information. PHRs that aren't sponsored or maintained by health plans or health care providers may not have privacy rules.
Can a caregiver use a PHR to help manage their loved one's care?

If you help make health care decisions for a loved one or take care of someone with Medicare, you do not automatically have a right to see or use their medical information, even though you may need it in order to make sure their care is coordinated. By law, only the patient has the right to their own health information, even if you are an immediate family member or if you help set up their PHR.

Here's how to get permission to use someone with Medicare's PHR:
  • The patient needs to submit a written authorization to their doctors, health care facilities and health plan for caregivers to get access to their health care information. You may already have filed an authorization with the individuals' provider or health plan for this type of access under the HIPAA privacy rule.
  • Caregiver authorization needs to be complete and comprehensive-it needs to give the provider (doctor or hospital) permission to release all information regarding treatment and care to the patient and/or anyone else designated.
  • Some PHR home pages let an individual give permission to other people to use the tool. That person will then get their own User ID and password.

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