E-Health Tools

Some e-Health tools may be available to you directly, so that you can use them to better manage your health and become more involved in your health care.

Personal Health Records (PHRs)

A personal health record (PHR) is similar to an electronic health record (EHR) in that it collects, stores and organizes health information in digital format from a number of sources. It differs from your provider's EHR in that you control the information and the access to it. Some PHRs may connect with your health care providers so you can download your medical information from them, but others require you to add your own information by scanning documents or typing in information. Some providers, employers, or insurance companies offer access to a PHR system, but many other systems are available either for free or a small charge. You can add any information you think is relevant but your doctor may not have, like information about your exercise or eating habits. For more information about PHRs, click here.

Electronic Health Record (EHR) Portals

Some health care providers offer Web sites, known as portals, that allow you direct access to information in your medical records and, in some cases, to other services such as appointment scheduling, notification systems, or e-mail access to your doctor. For example, Fletcher Allen Health Care offers its patients access to MyHealth Online.

Health-related Informational Web Sites

Many sites exist to connect people to information they can use to learn about, maintain, and improve their health. As with any resource on the web, you should check to see if a site is reliable. Some web sites have a bias (or an incentive to sell you something), so try to find out the sponsor or source of the site so you can decide whether or not to trust the information. You may also want to discuss that information with your doctor. Two web resources for finding reliable health information are Health On The Net and Healthfinder.gov. For reliable information about health insurance, visit Healthcare.gov.

Peer-health Web Sites

The web is a remarkable resource for people to share information, strategies for problem solving, and emotional support about their health concerns. These sites don't replace health care providers, but they can help you exchange information about treatment options and experiences; disabling conditions; care facilities; dealing with complications; current research; and many other topics.

Health Application Web Sites

A lot of what you do that affects your health happens outside the doctor's office. This may involve exercise, eating habits, blood sugar monitoring, weight loss efforts, or how much sleep you get. Many free and fee-based web sites can help you track this information, analyze it, and even save it in a form you can share with your doctor. Some of these sites stand alone, while other are part of a collection of mobile health tools (see below).

Mobile Health

Mobile health applications can help you collect, analyze, and use the same information as a health application web site (see above), but without tying you to a home computer. In some cases, mobile health applications and health application web sites work together.

Some mobile health applications even use sensors in your phone to enrich the information you collect — such as how far you climbed or how fast you ran. Other mobile health applications help you keep track of critical information such as your medication schedule and can provide alerts to keep you on track.

E-mail and Text Messages

You don't need a fancy device to use e-Health. You can use basic e-mail or text messaging on your cell phone. There are many systems that can remind you about everything from doctor appointments to any of the many things you may need to do to manage a chronic illness. One example is Text4Baby, a service that sends you information and reminders about prenatal care based on your baby's due date.

Other Software

In addition to systems that can store and track health information, several software products can help you make the most of information you may get from your provider. For example, if you receive a disc containing images such as x-rays or ultrasound scans, you can find free and paid software enabling you to view those images on a computer.