January is National Get Organized Month. For many people, the word “organized” brings to mind closets, desks or calendars. I’d like to urge you to think about organizing your medical records. Proper organization of these files could save a life, maybe even your own.
Consider, for example, what might happen if you faced a medical emergency. Would your family members know your wishes? Would they have at their fingertips a list of your medications or the phone numbers for your doctors? Suppose your parent, spouse or child suddenly had a medical concern. Would you have all the information necessary to deal with the situation quickly and calmly? Would their other caregivers?
For now, most medical data is created and presented on paper. Until electronic systems become more uniform and accessible, you’ll be pulling together reams of documents. To help ensure the data is most beneficial, it’s important to make these records easily located and clearly understood.
- With that overall priority in place, start by selecting a system that works best for you. Some people prefer three-ring binders. Others want hanging folders. Make it easy for yourself and for anyone else who needs access. You’ll want to establish distinguishable files for each family member. This could mean color-coded binders or folders. Whatever method you choose, ensure each person’s medical records remain separate of other family members.
- Compile an overview of each person. List each family member’s personal statistics such as full name, date of birth, allergies, blood type, medications, etc., as well as the names of all doctors, specialists, dentists, insurance carriers, etc., along with their contact information. This list should be the first page or pages of the binder or folder. It also should be carried in wallets and handbags, so that it is available outside the home.
- Pages following this overview will provide more specific information about each family member. Starting with the most current information first, be sure to include test results, immunization records, insurance policies, bills and payments, earlier treatments, surgeries, family medical reports, etc. This also is a good place to record observations about medical issues or concerns. Include any materials that may be relevant to a treating physician.
Gathering all this information can be time-consuming, but ultimately it will be worth it because of the peace of mind it will bring. In an emergency, you’ll appreciate that information can be shared more readily and questions can be answered more thoroughly. Additional tips for getting organized can be found on our website.