It is with a bit of trepidation that I bring up the topic for this month’s health plan as any subject related to paper sorting, I want to run for the hills! Really. I do. But, stay with me here. No major hours digging through piles of papers required. Some effort is necessary, though. Getting our medical records in order is so important as it can play a key role in keeping you and your family safe and getting the best outcome should a medical issue arise. (Crossing my fingers it won’t, of course!)
Your system can be as simple or as high-tech as you choose. And, remember . . . once you create a system, it is minor upkeep from here on in. Nice, huh?
HOW TO GET YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS IN SHAPE AND WHAT TO INCLUDE
1. Gather about. In January’s Health Plan, I listed a task to create a medical file for each family member or persons you care for. So, let’s pick up from there.
You may already have files started. Great! Or, hmmm . . . maybe not. OK, But those medical papers are somewhere. Go fetch them, please, and put these kinds of things in one file for each family member:
- all surgeries and hospitalizations with dates and locations
- list of regular medications
- all allergies
- all medical procedures and test results
- past doctors and test results
- blood type
- family history (see step 3 below)
- notes from doctor visits on the protocol you are to follow, hospital discharge orders
3. Look way back. Create one family medical history document that you can copy and include in each family member’s file. Ask your relatives and check with your spouse, too, on his or her side to include for your children.
4. Help first responders. I wrote about having emergency medical information accessible over here with lots of tips and tools to make that easy for you and for a medical team that is caring for you in an emergency situation. This information may be crucial for you to receive the best care and most accurately diagnose without errors. After all, you may not be able to speak up about those issues, so it is so important if you or a family member has any allergies, regular medications, etc. to list that information for them. Please check that post out for the many ways to record that information.
5. Some things are critical. Something we never want to imagine is a stay in an intensive care unit. But it happens. Get those critical care medical forms ready to include in that file. It includes this:
- living will
- any documents for treatment limits such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), intubation, feeding tube, IV fluids, etc.
Make sure your family knows where this is. Remember you are doing this for your family, too. The more they know your wishes, the less stress they will face. Here are some links with specifics on that.
6. Other files to keep. Here are a few other files you may want to create to keep paying those medical bills easier, or . . . at least more organized!
- doctor, lab, hospital bills
- insurance claims you file with the insurance company
- paid insurance claims and bills
- receipts for out-of-pocket expenses
7. Keep working on that list. I also suggested in January’s Health Plan to begin thinking of any health questions you have for your next doctor visit. Keep a running list on your phone or elsewhere to add to easily if you think of something.
How is that task coming along? If you or a family member has any medical issues, have you gathered any research or heard of any new treatment plans you want to discuss with your doctor? Give that a few minutes of thought to see if there is something you want to put on your research list.
THE PROS AND CONS OF ELECTRONIC MEDICAL PROGRAMS
First, some pros:
- They all let you update records electronically by loading a program onto your computer or subscribing to a Web-based service. You still have to enter the information, though, if you doctor can’t automatically send it to your service.
- Some programs alert you to drug recalls if a family member has a medical emergency, and follow-up appointments.
- Some get really fancy and graph your testing results for you to see what changes have occurred.
- The information can be shared easily with your medical team.
However, some cons:
- Many cost money.
- Entering the medical information can be time-consuming and tedious.
- If they collect information from insurance companies and doctors, there can be a mistake.
- You may start to get unsolicited ads.
- Privacy can never be guaranteed.
So, do you have your files in order and want to share a tip or two on doing so easily? Do you use an electronic system you think is pretty terrific? Please let us know!
SHOP A STYLISH FILING SYSTEM
Creating a filing system for your medical records does not have to be so tedious with stylish options like these below. Check out these items to make your records system a true success: