Add to your to-do list: Organize your personal medical records

Keep your personal medical recordsWe’ve already examined how keeping track of your family health history can help you catch and treat common conditions early, but it’s just as important to keep track of your own medical records. That’s because becoming more engaged in your care has been shown to improve health outcomes.

And an important first step to become more engaged is learning how to compile a Personal Health Record (or PHR). It provides your doctors, especially independent caregivers and specialists, with a more complete picture of your medical history, ensuring you receive the best, most accurate treatment. Don’t worry, getting started isn’t as difficult as it seems. Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you create your own PHR:

  • Collect your records: If you see more than one doctor, or if you’ve moved to a new area, be sure to gather all records from your previous doctors. Since there is no standard system for sharing records yet, you can’t always rely on your doctors to relay your complete history.
  • Ask for a copy: In many cases, your caregivers are required to give you a copy of any treatment plans or diagnoses if you ask for them. Always request a copy to keep on-hand for your records and to share with a new doctor.
  • Medication: While your official medical records track the medication your doctor prescribes, it may not take into account any over-the-counter medication or supplements you take. Be sure to note these, along with the dosages.
  • Get organized: Keeping track of your medical history can be as simple as creating a checklist each time you visit the doctor, including noting the medication you receive and any diagnoses. When it comes to organizing your notes, it’s really up to your preference. Some prefer to use notebooks, while other use digital documents. There are also several online and mobile apps that make compiling your records a breeze, like MyMedical and MyPHR.
  • Keep a timeline: Your doctor will want to know about any major health milestones, from major surgery to emergency room visits. You’ll want to be sure to keep an accurate timeframe of these milestones.

In the future, there will likely be digital Electronic Health Records (or EHR), so you won’t need to be so focused on collecting papers. At the moment, however, only 42 percent of hospitals meet EHR standards, so the above strategy is still the best.



Photo credit: Guy Mayer

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