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Electronic Health Records (EHR): How to Talk to Your Doctor

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From large hospitals to small medical practices, more and more health care facilities are now using electronic health records (EHR) to manage and streamline patient care.

So what do you, as a patient and health care consumer, need to know about digitized systems? Are there specific questions about an EHR you should discuss with your doctor? Who, exactly, has access to your personal health information? And, can you access it yourself on your smartphone?

The growing use of EHR should be embraced, says Kelly Summers, senior director, digital care transformation at Dignity Health, because shared digitized information empowers doctors and patients.

“EHRs include everything from past medical history, tests, current treatments, and notes about care delivery,” Summers says. “Physicians can see what their patient has received in a number of care settings, ensuring continuity of care and increasing the timeliness of getting test results to physicians.”

For patients, there are advantages to a unified EHR system they can see themselves.

“Technically, the EHR is specific to what the clinician see, but it can connect to the patient portal where patients can access a comprehensive view of their care. This empowers them to manage their own care and to have ongoing conversations with their physicians about care instructions and care plans.”

How EHRs work

According to the National Coordination for Health Information Technology (ONC), one of the key features of an EHR is that health information can be created and managed by authorized providers in a digitized format that is capable of being shared with other providers within a larger health care organization.

That means laboratories, specialists, imaging facilities, pharmacies, and emergency and other medical clinics can access identical patient information—without patients filling out nearly identical paperwork in every medical office along the way.

Benefits of EHRs

Not only are EHR efficient, but they may also add an extra degree of safety. No essential or even obscure points of patient information—from medical histories to allergic reactions to certain medications—are missing. It’s all there for every provider within a shared network to review, which can affect the care you receive in real time.

Digitized records may also enable physicians to make diagnoses sooner, reduce errors, improve patient safety, and support better patient outcomes, according to the ONC.

Dignity Health’s Pilot Program

In early 2018, Dignity Health entered into a partnership with Apple to integrate patient health records into Apple’s popular Health app to make it easier for its patients to review their medical data.

Because health records are stored on their personal devices, patients can then send that information to any provider they choose.

Talk to Your Doctor

If you’re worried about digitizing your health information due to privacy issues, share your concerns with your doctor. Your physician will likely allay such fears. Large health care organizations such as Dignity Health take great measures to secure patient information. “EHR data is secure,” Summers says. “We take privacy very seriously. Everything is in compliance with HIPAA.”


The Dignity Health Editorial Team manages the "Health Matters" blog with the mission of empowering our readers to be proactive about holistic wellness. We aim to provide clear and practical guidance around navigating health care through our unique lens of kindness, compassion, and humanity.

*This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute health care advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or physician before making health care decisions.