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PHRs Protect Families From the Harshest Realities of Natural Disasters

"Hurricane Season" an ideal time to guard personal health information against nature's devastation

CHICAGO, June 9 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Major catastrophic events can lead to chaos, destruction and death. Now is the time of year when public awareness and preparedness are the best defenses against the high-impact storm systems that will sweep across many parts of the country.

The need to prepare for the possibility of a dangerous tropical storm striking near you is essential. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November. Forecasters predict there is a 70 percent chance of nine to 14 named storms of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) with 111 mph+ winds.

This is a big reason why electronically stored personal health records (PHRs) let even those who have lost almost everything receive the best possible medical treatment in the wake of natural disasters. Comprehensive PHRs that include a complete medical history and an accurate and updated patient profile -- including current prescriptions, allergies, blood-type and physicians' names and contact information -- can be imperative to surviving a recent injury or keeping a previously diagnosed illness properly treated and under control.

"Regardless of what product is used to create a PHR -- paper or electronic files -- the ultimate goal is for emergency responders, healthcare providers and, of course, healthcare consumers, to have immediate access to the health information that's required for sound medical decisions to be made," said Julie Wolter, assistant professor of health information management at St. Louis University and co-chair of the AHIMA PHR Practice Council.

Even without a full set of records, it is important for each person to have, at least, a document with their health profile simply stored on a card inside a wallet or electronically on a key chain flash drive.

Disaster planning is equally important for health information professionals to ensure patient records and their healthcare information is available and maintained during a crisis. Medical Records Disaster Planning: A Health Information Manager's Survival Guide helps prepare professionals to develop contingency plans and response strategies for their facilities.

"Hurricanes are no more respectful of healthcare facilities and clinics than of homes, businesses and boats," said Bonnie C. Sher, RHIA, CCS, CCS-P, CEC, CPC, Consultant, KForce Healthcare. "It is imperative that persons living in vulnerable areas make sure their health information is current, concise and portable. Relocations -- whether temporary or permanent -- are managed better when family members' health care can be seamlessly continued, especially when one or more chronic conditions must be maintained."

Last year the Atlantic hurricane season was very active with eight hurricanes, of which five of them were major. Preparedness, often the key to survival, for these and other natural disasters includes a disaster kit. A properly supplied kit should have relatives' names and contact information, bottled water, non-perishable food, first aid supplies, portable toolkit, passports, credit card numbers, copies of insurance policies and wills on file with your attorney and, most important, the personal health record of family members.

Visit for information on creating and maintaining your own PHR. The Web site provides public education on privacy and security issues, free health forms, PHR products and services, and more.

Other emergency information and hurricane readiness Web sites can be found through the Federal Emergency Management Agencies at and


The American Health Information Management Association is America's leading professional society whose mission is to "improve healthcare by advancing best practices and standards for health information management and [serve as] the trusted source for education, research and professional credentialing." AHIMA represents more than 53,000 specially educated HIM professionals who serve healthcare and the public by managing, analyzing and utilizing data vital for health system management.

SOURCE American Health Information Management Association
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