A reader asked what to do with all of the test results and other paperwork that result from visiting doctors or from hospital stays. Like many people, she wasn’t sure what to keep and where to keep it.
You may be asking why you should keep track of your medical information when your doctor has all of it.
Your doctor might not have a complete record of all your treatments, procedures and medications. If you see more than one doctor, or if you are hospitalized, you want to make sure that all your providers are aware of your medical history and current medical conditions. Doctors don’t have a lot of time to spend with patients, so having the information with you gives you more time to talk about your current situation, rather than having to search for your records.
October is National Organize Your Medical Information Month. Created by Lynda Shrager, the purpose is to remind you to acquire, understand, utilize and store pertinent medical information and knowledge, so you can become a more informed and active participant in your medical care (or that of a loved one).
When you can easily access your medical information, you can help avoid medical errors and improve the probability of positive outcomes.
The easiest way to keep track of information is with a notebook. Keep a list of medications, vaccinations, surgeries and other procedures. Take notes when you go to the doctor so you can remember what you need to do afterward.
A notebook also is handy if your doctor asks you to keep track of what you ate or what you were exposed to, for example. It’s much easier to write down in the moment than to try and recall it later on. You can make a copy of the information in the notebook and give it to the doctor at your next visit.
There are forms on the internet that capture all your history in one place. I like the free downloadable template created Dr. Brent Ridge, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, that you can use to keep track of your medical history.
If you prefer a digital solution, you can create a spreadsheet or word-processing document and print out the pertinent information before a medical appointment. You can take a look at apps, too, although they may not offer the convenience of printing out a record.
These days, you need to be able to navigate the healthcare system and be your own advocate. How do you keep track of all your medical information?