Patient Health Records Online

Aniruddha Malpani

Aniruddha Malpani

Founder Malpani Infertility Clinic India


It's better if the patient is informed about health, so he can manage his life and affairs in a better fashion.


1. How will the Personal Health Records help the Patient to control his / her data?

For your Income Tax officer, you are your Income Tax return. For your Bank Manager, you are your Bank record. Along the same lines, for your doctor you are your medical record. . Unfortunately, most of us do not keep our records properly. Not only does this make life difficult for us, it also makes life difficult for our doctor. He needs to know what surgeries we have had done in the past; or what medicines we are on; and if we cannot provide this basic information, it wastes his time and energy extracting this information from us. Well-organised records help both patients and doctors. This is especially true in emergency situations, for example.

2. How do you think this will affect patient care?

I think it will help to improve patient care a lot. Patients are the largest untapped healthcare resource and if we give them the right tools to help them manage their own health, they will be able to do a much better job than they do at present. A well-informed patient gets VIP care from their doctor. We all know that doctors respect patients who are knowledgeable and well-organised. Some doctors worry that PHRs might disrupt the doctor-patient relationship because they saddle overburdened physicians with unreimbursed information-management duties and overload consumers with data. It is true that there is a learning curve associated with adopting any new technology but once doctors experience how much easier it is to provide healthcare to a patient with a complete PHR, many of them will adopt this advance enthusiastically because it will make them much more productive.

3. Is allowing patients access to their medical records safe?

Yes, of course. After all, just like the patient's body belongs to him, so does his medical record - and who will take better care of it than the patient himself? The clerk in a hospital can misplace or mis-file or lose a record, but a patient will be much more responsible and careful. Some of the worries are that "A little knowledge is dangerous"; or that patients will become half-baked doctors if they learn about their body; or that they will start experimenting with self-medication. I think none of these are true. There will always be hypochondriacs who will worry needlessly, but the vast majority of people is responsible and can be trusted with access to their own records. What if the medical record contains highly sensitive information ( for example, that the patient has a terminal illness ? ) Even in this case, I feel it's better if the patient is informed about this, so he can manage his life and affairs in a better fashion.

4. How will this affect the doctor-patient relationship?

This depends upon the type of doctor and the type of patient. It will help to improve the doctor-patient relationship in the vast majority of cases. Good doctors are much happier treating well-informed patients who have realistic expectations from their doctor and their treatment. Of course, some old-fashioned doctors may feel threatened by such patients. However, times are changing - and doctors need to change with them.

5. What are the benefits of making Personal Health Records available online?

While paper records and online records are complementary, online records offer many advantages.

  • Much less expensive to setup
  • Easier to update
  • Easier to access 24/7 from anywhere in the world
  • Do not get lost
  • Can be referred to in an emergency by a family member
  • They allow people to setup online communities and network with and share information with other people who have similar medical problems
  • The biggest benefit is that they allow data interoperability; so that in the future, the patient's health record is automatically updated when the doctor's or hospital's medical records is updated, so that there is no need to enter the data multiple times

6. How will this affect the current healthcare scenario where doctors are not sharing patient information, especially in developing countries?

I think it will help to improve the scenario. Well-informed patients (especially those who have lived abroad and have experienced healthcare in the West) are now demanding their doctors in India treat them with more respect and be more transparent. Younger doctors in India, especially those who have trained in the West, are very comfortable with sharing information with their patients.

7. Could there be any unintended consequences of making PHRs available online?

The major concerns are issues of privacy and security. People are worried that companies like Google will misuse this information to market to them; or that their employers and health insurance companies will penalise them if they have a medical problem. Like any tool, it's true that this too can be misused. However, I think the risk of this happening in today's world is quite small, because of increased consumer awareness and regulatory safeguards, such as HIPAA. If people are comfortable accessing their bank records online, it's just a matter of time till they get equally comfortable with accessing their health records online.

8. How have the healthcare IT companies responded to this?

Unfortunately, even though most healthcare companies realise the importance of electronic medical records, they have been extremely slow in providing consumers with a PHR. They are too focussed on the hospital IT market (since this is a huge profit centre for them) as a result of which, the needs of the patient have been neglected. This is actually a great opportunity for start-ups such as Yos Technologies, since this is a virgin area, which needs to be tapped.

9. Any other comments?

The major issue today is one of cost. Who will pay for this? I think a sensible strategy would be to roll out the PHR as a consumer product; and once people see the benefits this offers them, they will be happy to pay for the security of knowing that the health records of their loved ones are safe and secure and easily accessible. is no need to enter the data multiple times