How to organize your medical records

How many times have you shown up to a doctor’s appointment and been handed a stack of multi-colored double sided forms to fill out?

You scan the information and realize that you don’t necessarily remember when you had your tonsils out as a child or the name of the medicine that caused you to break out in hives five years ago. You soldier on valiantly, filling in the blanks as best you can, hoping that your memory lapses won’t come back to haunt you. Having complete and accurate records for everyone in your family is not just a nice thing to have, it’s essential. The good news is that getting them in order is a straightforward organizational task.

Alicia on ‘Why It Matters’

Medical histories are a critical tool for doctors as they help them identify potential issues, make diagnoses, and define safe treatment plans. Your medical records and family history provide essential information and data points that can give a doctor a better picture of what might be ailing you today or what you may want to keep an eye on in the future. It is an investment in you and your family’s long term health that is absolutely worth making.

Sarah on ‘The Basics’

The first step towards keeping accurate medical information is to capture the critical particulars for every member in your family. Basic information should include at a minimum the following: Family doctor name and contact numbers, insurance information including copy of insurance card, medications currently being taken on a regular basis as well as dosage, allergies to medications or anything else, blood type, any current or recent medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, asthma) , and pharmacy name and phone number. Type it up and store on your computer so you can print out a copy and take to your doctor appointments or an emergency room visit.

Here are three additional areas to think about when organizing your medical information.

These are intended to be a great starting point, but please always check with your own doctor about additional data that would be helpful to have.

#1: Past
Mapping your family’s medical history will provide any medical professional with a solid foundation for understanding what you may be at risk for in the future. At your next family gathering, take some time to learn more about your family’s health history if you don’t already have a clear picture. Make note of any illnesses among your grand parents, aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings. For those relatives who have passed away note what they died from and how old they were. In addition, keep track of your significant illnesses and hospitalizations. The more information you can collect in this area the clearer the picture for doctors down the line.

#2: Present
Keep a running list of things you want to talk to your doctor about on your next visit. They may be as minor as a small heartburn problem or as important as remembering to get your cholesterol checked. If you jot things down when they come to mind, you will be less likely to forget something that could be important to discuss at your next checkup. This is a great thing to do for your kids as well so that when you meet with the pediatrician you can not only discuss big health concerns but you can also remember the little things like toilet training issues and how to stop thumb sucking.

#3: Future
Keep handy a list of screening tests that can help identify problems well in advance and make a note of when you should first have them done. These are obviously different for each person and change as we get older. Examples include cholesterol screening, diabetes test, skin exam, eye exam, hearing test, mammogram, colonoscopy, bone density scan and EKG.