Since 2006, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has been engaged in a number of pilot projects to encourage Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of Personal Health Records (PHRs). These tools, usually available through the internet, can help people track their health care services and better communicate with their providers. The type of Personal Health Records CMS has been testing are populated with health information from Medicare claims data. In the future, these records may be able to get information from a provider's electronic health record system, and some providers may begin to allow patients to see the information directly from those electronic records.
In general, a Personal Health Record (PHR) is controlled by the individual, and can be shared with others, including caregivers, family members and providers. This is different from a provider's electronic health record, which is controlled by the provider just as paper medical records are today. Ideally, a Personal Health Record will have a fairly complete summary of an individual's health and medical history based on data from many sources, including information entered by the individual (allergies, over the counter medications, family history, etc).
Today, Personal Health Records are available from a number of sources: through many health plans for their members, through providers for their patients, and through independent vendors who are given permission by the individual to receive and store information from health plans, providers, pharmacies, labs, etc.