As many of us walk through life we attempt to create order out of chaos with the goal of attaining some semblance of peace and tranquility. In Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, he described 13 virtues with the third being “Order” which he admits gave him the most trouble. Franklin describes Order as “Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time. Organize your life; pay attention to ALL aspects of your work.” Franklin realized that creating order in his life gave him the necessary time to work on important projects such as his inventions. Where would we all be if he didn’t have time to perform his duties as a Founding Father? Fast forward, more than 200 hundred years later, even with all the technological advances many of us like Franklin have trouble mastering the virtue of order and creating a work life balance.

The intention of this blog is to support activities we, as individuals can perform to order our daily lives through the acquisition, organization, storage, maintenance, retrieval, and sharing of personal health information. These skills can be transferred to other aspects of personal information management (PIM). Personal health information management (PHIM) has been defined as an important aspect in healthcare consumerism where the individual plays a central role in the flow of their health information by using a collection of tools and technologies. With the adoption of consumer health IT and PHIM evidence suggest that individuals who actively engage in their health and well-being will experience a higher percentage of positive health outcomes. PHIM helps empower the healthcare consumer by increasing their health literacy resulting in becoming an active participant in the health care decision making process.

Today’s healthcare consumers are saddled with common challenges of PHIM including navigating a complex and fragmented healthcare system. Healthy people visit their Primary Care Physician (PCP) on a national average of three to four times a year including well-care visits. Well-care visits include screenings and immunizations which is an imperative function to early detection and prevention of disease. The optimal time for health care consumers to implement a strategic plan in collecting, organizing, and storing their medical documents is when they are healthy and of sound mind. When an individual or loved one is diagnosed with a life-threatening disease such as cancer the patient will receive a primary intervention such as a surgical procedure then followed up with a combination of long term outpatient care such as chemotherapy, radiation treatments, and additional diagnostic procedures. During this time, which could last for months or possibly years the patient or their caregiver will be required to manage vast amounts of health information coming from many different health disciplines and organizations which may be unfamiliar to them. This is also a very stressful time when the patient may be experiencing cognitive issues, anxiety, and depression making processing new information difficult. Being prepared and organized prior to a health crises will help relieve some of the stress that is experienced during these traumatic times.

In my next article, I will cover the topic of cybersecurity and give a road map on how to create strong passwords that are easy to remember. This skill is a very important aspect of PHIM and should be put into practice prior to storing sensitive and private health information. Passwords are the first line of defense against security intrusions. So, I hope you follow along with me and try like Benjamin Franklin to master the virtue of order.

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