Basic electronic personal health records emerged as people began collecting personal health information and entering it into computer-based, word processing templates or spreadsheet applications. These records are initiated and maintained by individuals, often to help them manage a chronic illness; they can include lifelong personal health information and can be used with or without the participation of health care providers.
As mass storage devices such as CD ROMs, smart cards, or USB flash drives became readily available they were utilized for maintaining personal health information. Early web-based PHRs include online emergency medical records that made manually-entered diagnoses, medications, and allergy information available to emergency room clinicia
In today's parlance, a PHR typically refers to a computer-based record – either a standalone product (e.g., accessible on the Internet or on a USB drive) or one that is integrated with the provider's electronic health record (EHR). While the uptake of standalone PHRs has been slow, a growing number of patients actively use integrated PHRs
Today, PHRs command attention on the national and international health policy landscapeRecognizing that consumer engagement in health promotion and disease management is critical to quality improvement and health care cost containment strategies, PHRs have been positioned as a tool to empower consumers to play a larger and more active role in wellness and self-care]. Health care leaders recognize that PHRs can integrate consumer and provider access to health information across the care continuum, including the home. Lessons learned from recent history (e.g., SARS, Hurricane Katrina) highlight the importance of portable personal health information in response and recovery efforts, the value of computer-based health records in the health care system, and the opportunity cost from the absence of these technologies.