In the spirit of taking care of personal health during the flu season I wanted to share some information which I think is a good step towards greater agency over personal health.
For many of us coming to college is the first time we are faced with making our own doctors appointments, dealing with insurance claims and all the other things that come with taking care of your own health without our parent’s help.
An important part of being able to understand your own health and advocate for yourself is to know your medical history. It can be helpful to know what you have and haven’t been vaccinated for, when your last physical was, or what medications you’re allergic to.
One way to access this information is through electronic health records (EHRs), which are available online. More and more doctors offices are switching from paper to electronic health records (83% of healthcare providers offer EHRs, according to ehrintelligence.com) and some even have smartphone apps where records are accessible. Not all doctors offer EHRs yet, but if yours does, it might be worth it to take a look and familiarize yourself with any important information.
Getting access to your EHRs is fairly simple, but the process can vary from doctor to doctor. Generally, you need to:
1) Contact the doctor(s) you have had in the past and ask if they offer online access to health records.
2) If they do, ask how to set up an account. Because medical information is protected by certain privacy laws you will generally be asked to sign a waiver allowing your records to become accessible through an online account and you may be required to physically go to your doctor’s office to sign the waiver form—although online, faxed or verbal consent is also accepted by some doctors).
3) Once the waiver is completed, your doctor will notify you when your EHR account has been activated, and you will be able to see your medical history online.
4) Many EHR portals are also available on smartphone apps such as “MyChart”, so that once you’ve created an EHR account you can also download an app to access your medical history on your phone. This can be especially useful when you are at the doctor’s office if need to answer a medical question on the spot and you can look up the answer on your phone.
Doctor’s offices and medical processes can be confusing and intimidating, and having a better understanding of your own medical history can help you have more agency over your own health.
To health and wellness!