October is Organize Your Medical Information Month and the 30-day challenge is to make time to create a personal healthcare record (PHR).
Organized medical information is the preparedness key for emergency situations and regular doctor visits. Having this important information at your fingertips is an insurance policy against medical mishaps and negligence, as well as having the power to be your own medical advocate. This record helps you understand your medical condition and allows for easy access to combine information from different medical providers and facilities. It just might prevent things from falling through the medical cracks.
What type of file is best
Answer the following questions to determine what works for you:
- Is it easy and convenient to bring this information to your doctor’s visit?
- If the information is stored on your computer, in the cloud, or in a file cabinet, is it secure?
- Can you easily share information with family members, doctors, nurses, hospitals and other facilities?
With a better understanding of your health condition, medications and test results, you have the ability to monitor and manage your healthcare and assist medical providers with key medical information.
- Binder. The good old paper copies organized in a 3-ring binder works for many families. It is cheap and easy to set up with copies of test results, medication list and chronic conditions.
- Digital document storage system on your home computer works well for sharing information and is secure if a backup system is in place.
- Personal health record smartphone app. There are websites designed to store health information and many apps are easily accessible from mobile devices.
What to include
- Full name and birth date
- Blood type
- Chronic medical conditions
- Include all health care providers, their contact info and the role they play in care
- Insurance information
- Personal health history
- Family health history
- Current medication list including dosage and frequency
- Immunization and vaccination records
- Test results
- Allergies (drugs and food) – listing serious one first
- Hearing, vision and dental records
- Information on any medical device you use
- Legal documents such as a living will, advance directives and medical power of attorney
- List of emergency contact information
- Never, never include your social security number. It is unnecessary in an emergency situation.
Whether you use high-tech record keeping or a good old-fashioned box or file folder, be sure to have a backup system in place. Being prepared is the first step in ensuring you receive the care you need.
There are several options for emergency preparedness. Most of the time, first responders need to understand a chronic medical condition that must be treated immediately. Here are several ways you can provide the needed information, especially when you are unable to communicate:
- Medical jewelry -For a life threatening condition, a medical bracelet or necklace is the best way to let emergency responders know what type of treatment is needed.
- Wallet Cards – these do not need to be as detailed as your home PMR, but it should at least cover basic information: Name, birth date, allergies, medications, medical conditions, medical provider information and emergency contacts.
- Mobile phone ICE – ICE stands for “In Case of Emergency. A global campaign, started in the UK in 2005, has spread to the United States calling for individuals to program an ‘In Case of Emergency’ contact (or ICE for short) into their mobile phones. It is an easy step for iPhone users.
- Vial of Life – The Vial of Life Project is free to use and provides a form to fill out with medical information. The form is then placed on your refrigerator. A sticker is attached to the front door to alert responders to the presence of the “vial” on the fridge. Put a filled in form in your wallet, in your glove compartment, and especially on your refrigerator door. Learn how the FREE Vial of Life kit works…
Plan Ahead and Be Organized
Do you know where your health information is located? Bits and pieces may be in several places: different doctors’ offices, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and health insurance companies.
The Blue Button symbol signifies that an organization has a way for you to access your health records electronically so you can:
- Share with your doctor or trusted family members or caregivers
- Check to make sure the information, such as your medication list, is accurate and complete
- Keep track of vaccinations, test, procedures
- Have your medical history available in case of emergency, when traveling, seeking a second opinion, or switching health insurance companies
- Plug your health information into apps and tools
Your Medical Rights
We each have the legal right to access our own health records held by doctors, hospitals and others who provide healthcare services for us. And we have the option of getting our records on paper or electronically depending on how they are stored. You can exercise your rights by downloading your health records through an online portal, or by asking how to get a copy of your health records. Some doctors or hospitals may not be familiar with your rights to access your information about your own health. You can print out and share with them a letter that explains these rights [PDF – 82 KB].
Now it is your turn
During the next 30-days, take 10-15 minutes every day to get your health records in order. Whether in a 3-ring binder or in the clouds, you need to compile information that is easily accessible when you need it. The key to being organized is having what you need exactly when you need it.
Fill in the form to the left and let me know how you are doing. If you need help, just let me know. I am here to assist you along your ‘get-organized-journey.’