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An app-le a day

Medical records go high-tech for patients, too

When you walk into a doctor’s office, it’s one of the first things they ask for: a current list of medications you’re taking. If you’re not in a position to answer for yourself—following an accident or medical emergency, for example—it’s an invaluable piece of information for family members or caregivers to provide.

So what are some good ways to keep track of medications, short of just scribbling the list on a piece of paper stuck in a pocket? Not surprisingly, there are a variety of personal medical record apps for that—some pretty basic, others with more sophisticated capacity; some free and some for a fee.

They enable a patient to list and update basic medical information, including names of medications, dosages, and how often to take them.

These apps can also be used to organize other important information, including:

• immunization records

• allergies

• personal and family medical history, such as dates of tests or procedures performed, or hospitalizationsGadgets

• insurance and emergency contact information

• living wills or advance medical directives

Some apps offer specialized features. For example, instead of typing in the name of a medication, you can take a photo of the prescription bottle, and the information is imported into the list. Some will track daily glucose or blood pressure readings. Consider also whether the app you’re considering requires an internet connection to access the information, or can be used offline.

Keeping up with your medical schedule 

Alarm or text message reminders are offered through some medical records apps, telling the user when to take medications at a particular hour or that it’s time to renew a prescription. Some coordinate with calendars to send reminders of appointments with doctors or other medical professionals. Others offer the option to manage care both for the patient and other family members, which can be useful for parents of young children, for example, or those providing elder care.

Protect your privacy 

Some medical records apps serve as a point of connection between the patient and online medical records, allowing patients whose providers are willing to participate to exchange or access electronic health records such as X-ray images and lab reports.

With all apps related to health records, pay careful attention to privacy considerations—including whether personal medical data is encrypted. Consider these questions: Can I add to it information from other sources (such as electronic medical records), or share my information easily with doctors or other caregivers if I wish?

And never skip this: What’s the plan for backing up the information?

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