Hand Held Health Records Not Associated with Improved Short-term Healthcare Activity

Michelle Nguyen, PhD
The University of Queensland, Australia

There are numerous barriers to high quality healthcare for people with intellectual disability (ID). A number of different tools have been developed to reduce these barriers. One of these tools is ‘hand-held health records’, also known as ‘health diaries’ and ‘health passports’, which are structured records of a person’s health history that remain in the possession of the person with ID. We wanted to know what, if any, evidence there was that having a hand-held health record increased health and well-being for persons with ID.

What did you do in your research?
We searched medical databases to find all articles that had looked at the development or use of hand-held health records. A total of seven articles were examined.

What did you find out?
Hand-held health records were generally accepted among people with ID and their caregivers, including family members, and their use led to more discussions about health issues and increased health related knowledge and awareness of personal health issues. However, using a hand-held health record did not appear to lead to increases in measurable healthcare activity such as hearing and vision testing or immunizations.

What are the take-home messages?
In healthcare, new tools can be adopted because they seem like a good idea, rather than because there is evidence that they actually work. Before you, or one of your family, start using or recommending a new healthcare tool, it is always worth finding out how much benefit the tool will actually provide. Hand held health records increase health communication and knowledge among people with ID, but in order to lead to an increase in healthcare activity they should be combined with another tool such as health checks. None of these studies captured the effects that hand held health records may have beyond 12 months, a possible direction for future research.

To learn more about these findings contact Michelle Nguyen.

Full Journal Article
Nguyen, M., Lennox, N., & Ware, R. (2014). Hand-held health records for individuals with intellectual disability: a systematic review. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 58(12) 1172–1178.