A personal health record and using the PHR on a mobile smartphone

by Jeff Brandt

There is much confusion about Personal Health Record (PHR) in the market today.

PHRs are divided into three groups; Mobile SmartPhone (mPHR), Cloud Apps, and other devices such as USB and Smartcards. Each type of PHR serves a different purpose and provides a useful and needed service. I will speak to the strengths and weaknesses of each of them.

Web Apps/Cloud PHR

These are browser based systems that need to be connected to the Internet . But, if there is no Internet connection, you can’t get to your health records. Web Apps provide convenient I/O of data and some provide a client interface so that some of your critical data may be viewed on a Web browser. Browsers on Smartphones tend to be slow, hard to read and have limited area access. Mobile PHRs normally provide fewer features than Cloud based systems, but this will be changing as bandwidth grows and Smartphones acquire more capabilities.

Smartphones and mPHR

Smartphones are cellphones that are more of a computer than phone. As I mentioned, they don’t offer as much power, memory, or bandwidth as Cloud/WebApp systems. Innovation of Smartphones is improving rapidly. Smartphone’s most differentiating feature is portability, they can go anywhere and your health data is always with you. There are many areas all over the world that do not have Internet.

You can find dead zones within ten miles of your home. If you need access to your medical record in one of these areas you will need a mPHR or USB device that is not tethered to the Internet. In most cases, when you need your health information the most, you are not sitting in front of your computer.

A mPHR that connects to a browser based Cloud PHR is a good option, you can manage your health at home and carry your most important data with you. Some mPHR’s also offer ICE (In Case of Emergency), a feature that provides first responders with much needed data about your health and contacts. Note, mPHR that is password protected will be of no help to first responders.

One of the drawbacks of a mPHR can be security. Most mPHR’s on the market today have little or no data security. Passwords alone do not protect data.

USB and SmartCards Devices

These devices are based on USB storage that is a connection to a PC. They are produced in all shapes and sizes from key fobs to credit cards. These devices are good alternatives to a mPHR if you do not have a Smartphone. They are cost effective, small and very portable. The major drawback that I have encountered is that doctors offices are reluctant to let you plug in a USB device into one of their computers because of the potential risk of a computer virus.

PHR’s are fairly new concept in the Medical world and I expect a significant evolution to occur in the next few years due to the current focus. Whether you have a USB device, Cloud PHR, or mPHR, having a PHR is the first step to taking charge of your health.

Jeff Brandt is President of Communication Software, Inc., makers of the motionPHR.

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