Electronic health records (EHRs) have existed for some time, yet few of them are applicable to conditions in developing countries of Southeast (SE) Asia. EHRs everywhere face similar problems: 1) availability; 2) ownership; 3) compatibility; 4) cost. The newer field of Web-based “personal” or “personally controlled” health records (PHRs) is evolving, and they partially address these problems. However, in large areas of SE Asia there is no or only very limited Web access. Developing countries do have many cellphone users and cellphone services. Therefore, the PHR concept can be extended to include cellphone records. Mobile health systems up to now have centered on healthcare providers rather than on “normal people”, and have often required broadband networks. We describe a minimalist “Portable Personal Health Record” (PPHR) - a simple, portable, digital record to represent the health history of a single person. It is a mobile phone application owned and maintained by the users, and therefore available. The PPHR functionality emphasizes simplicity over medical exactness, so it is not the same as a “medical record.” Data entry is via lists derived from the International Classification for Primary Care (ICPC-2e) for compatibility; data is stored on the phone as name-value pairs (ISO 18308), and is transmitted as SMSs via the almost ubiquitous GSM network. The records can be translated to Continuity of Care Record (CCR) format for compatibility and inclusion in standards-compliant, Web-based PHR systems. The application is provided as open-source. User testing in Sarawak, East Malaysia, shows that this application is positively received by “normal people”.
Electronic patient record; personal health record; mobile health; cellphone