The term "health information technology" (health IT) is a broad concept that encompasses an array of technologies to store, share, and analyze health information.
More and more, health care providers are using health IT to improve patient care. But health IT isn't just for health care providers. You can use health IT to better communicate with your doctor, learn and share information about your health, and take actions that will improve your quality of life. Health IT lets you be a key part of the team that keeps you healthy.
Electronic Health Records (EHRs)
Your doctor keeps records of your health information, such as your history of diseases and which medications you're taking. Up until now, most doctors stored these in paper files. EHRs (sometimes called "electronic medical records") are electronic systems that store your health information. EHRs allow doctors to more easily keep track of your health information and may enable them to access your information when you have a problem even if their office is closed. EHRs also make it easier for your doctor to share information with specialists and others so that everyone who needs your information has it available when they need it. Some EHRs may also allow you to log in to a web portal to view your own health record, lab results, and treatment plan, and to email your doctor.
Personal Health Records (PHRs)
A PHR is a lot like an EHR, except that you control what kind of information goes into it.
You can use a PHR to keep track of information from your doctor visits, but the PHR can also reflect your life outside the doctor's office and your health priorities, such as tracking your food intake, exercise, and blood pressure. Sometimes, your PHR can link with your doctor's EHR.
A paper prescription can get lost or misread. E-prescribing allows your doctor to communicate directly with your pharmacy. This means you can go to the pharmacy to pick up medicine without having to bring the paper prescription.
There are other "e-Health tools" that you can use on your own, if you wish, that may be considered a part of the broader health IT world. These include:
Personal Health Tools
These are tools that help you check your health, get feedback, and keep track of your progress to better manage your health. Examples include smartphone "apps" that can help you set and monitor fitness goals and cell phone text reminders to take your medicine on time.
Online communities can help people connect with one another to try to maximize good health (such as during pregnancy) or to respond to concerns about poor health. Through online communities you can share information with -- and emotionally support -- others facing similar concerns about a particular disease or disability.
These e-health tools are designed to place you at the center of your care – helping to put the "I" in health IT.