Dear Savvy Senior,
To keep up with all the different doctors I see and medications I take, a friend recently suggested I start keeping my own medical records at home, but I’m not sure where to start. Can you offer any tips or suggestions on the best way to go about doing this? Unorganized Annie
Keeping a set of your own personal health records is a great tool to help you get a better handle on your own health care, as well as avoid possible medical errors. Here are some tips to help you get started.
It’s a fact that the more doctors you see, the more medical files you have. And the more scattered your medical records are, the higher your risk of drug errors, missed diagnoses, and other dangerous glitches. The solution: Keep a set of your own records at home. And with all the self-help tools available today, it’s easier than it sounds.
Today, there are literally dozens of Web sites, computer software and paper-based products (some are free; others charge) that can help you gather your medical information, create your health records and keep them updated. The idea: Having your own health history at your fingertips can ensure better, more coordinated care. To find a listing and links to all the different kinds of electronic and paper based self-help tools visit www.myphr.com and click on “Tools and Resources,” then click on “PHR Tools and Services.”
To start your personal health record, you’ll need to request a copy of your health records from all your healthcare providers, including your general practitioner, plus your eye doctor, dentist, and any other specialist you have seen. Find out if your records are in an electronic format you can access, or request paper copies.
Once you have your paper records in hand, keep them together in a file folder or binder so they’re easy to find. Organize the information in a way that makes sense to you, but mark it clearly, so it makes sense to others as well. And be sure your loved ones have access to it if you become incapacitated.
After you’ve created your personal health record, be sure to take it with you to all doctor appointments and remember to keep updating it. To make your electronic health records portable there are a number of handy USB flash drives (like www.medkey.com, www.emrystick.com, www.vitalkey.com) that are about the size of a house key that can hold your medical records and be updated easily.
What to Include
Here’s a checklist of what should be included in your personal health record:
Personal information - name, contact info, birth date, Social Security number.
Emergency contacts including phone numbers.
Physicians, dentists, other specialists. Include addresses, phone numbers.
Health insurance information.
Living will, medical power of attorney, advance directive.
Organ donation authorization, if any.
List and dates of significant illnesses or surgeries. You could request and include a copy of your “discharge summary” from each hospital where a surgery took place.
Current medications and dosages.
Immunizations and dates.
Allergies or sensitivities to drugs.
Hereditary conditions in your family; important dates, i.e. father died of heart attack at age 50. See www.familyhistory.hhs.gov.
Results of recent physical exam.
Opinions of specialists you saw.
Important test results; dental and eye records.
Correspondence with your health care providers.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.