The majority of content in this post is borrowed from Trig’s Healthcare Navigation Module 4: Managing My Health Information.
Most of us don’t give too much thought to our health information. Our doctors keep our medical records on file for us and update them whenever we come in. So we shouldn’t have to worry about it, right?
It’s very important for you to keep track of your own health information. Of course your records will be stored for you at the clinic or hospital, but what if you start seeing a new doctor or specialist? What if you are seeing multiple doctors? Or worse – what if your records are incorrect?
When you keep track of your own health information, you enhance your healthcare experience by providing your physicians with up-to-date information, learning more about your health and taking a more active role in your medical care.
In this post, we’ll cover ways for you to safely organize, store and keep track of your health information at home, starting with the information you’ll want to collect.
What information should I keep track of?
The items in bold represent information you should definitely include in your personal records:
- Personal identification information (full name and birth date)
- People to contact in case of an emergency
- Names, addresses and phone numbers of your primary care physician, dentist and specialists
- Your health insurance information (carrier name, policy number, etc.)
- Living will, advance directives or medical power of attorney
- Current medications and dosages
- Allergies and drug sensitivities
- Herbal medications, supplements, etc.
- Organ donor authorization (if applicable)
- Chronic or ongoing health issues (e.g. asthma, diabetes, etc.)
- Your medical history with dates (e.g. major illnesses, surgeries, etc.)
- Your immunizations and their dates
- Family history and hereditary conditions present in your family
- Results from your most recent physical exam
- Important test results
- Medical bills
- EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) from your insurance
- Opinions from specialists
- Dietary practices (especially if they have impacted your health)
- Dental/vision records
- Current educational materials relating to your health
- Other information you want to include relating to your health (e.g. exercise frequently, non-smoker, etc.)
How can I organize and store my health information safely?
You have a few different options when it comes to organizing and storing your health information, depending on your preference between paper and electronic records.
1. Paper Records (hard copies):
If you prefer storing hard copies of your medical records and information, you should keep it organized in a binder with dividers, an accordion file, or something similar. If you are organizing health information for your entire family, consider creating a separate binder/folder for each person in order to avoid mixing up information. It may be helpful to separate your information into the following categories:
- Personal information and contacts
- Current/ongoing conditions (e.g. asthma, diabetes, other chronic diseases)
- Current medications and allergies
- Past medical history and important test results
- Family medical history
- Bills and EOBs
Some of this information you will need to type up yourself, whereas some can be pulled from your medical records or other documents. If you have an official copy of your medical records from your doctor, be sure to store that here as well.
Tips for Safe Storage:
Your health information should be stored in a secure place that is easily accessible in case of emergency. These records contain personal confidential information and should therefore be treated like any other important paper document, such as a birth certificate or social security card. Records should be kept in a locked, fire-resistant file cabinet or safe, and you should decide carefully who has access to these documents.
2. Electronic Records:
You can store your records electronically by either saving them directly to your computer (in a folder) or on a CD or thumb drive. You may find it helpful to create sub-folders on your computer or device to help organize your information.
Tips for Safe Storage:
Make sure that any health information you store on a computer is password-protected and backed up on a hard drive in case the computer is broken, stolen or hacked. If you choose to load your records onto an electronic device (CD, thumb drive, hard drive, etc.), make sure to store the device in a secure location as you would paper records or other important documents.
b. Online (PHRs)
Websites that store your health information electronically are called Personal Health Records, or PHRs. You choose the information that goes in your PHR and you are responsible for managing it and keeping it updated. Some PHRs will also connect to your provider network and pull information from your doctor’s records. Some healthcare providers actually offer PHRs now in order to communicate directly with patients, show test results, remind about appointments, etc. If your provider doesn’t have a PHR, you can find one online. Here are a couple examples:
- HealthVault: Microsoft HealthVault is a popular PHR website. It’s also available as an app you can download to your smartphone or tablet. It lets you store your health information (allergies, medications, insurance, etc.); your measurements (blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, etc.); trackers (dietary intake, exercise, sleep, etc.); and important contacts. It can also potentially pull your records directly from your doctors and pharmacy, if they are partnered with HealthVault.
- iTriage: iTriage is a PHR website and app. It lets you store health information (“My iTriage”), symptoms, doctors, conditions, medications and procedures. It also provides information on healthcare facilities that are close to you. You can download iTriage from the App Store or Google Play.
Tips for Safe Storage:
If your health information is stored online – whether it’s through your provider, insurance company or other website/app – make sure that the site is secure and password-protected.
To learn more about medical records, Personal Health Records and your rights to your information, Trig members can read or watch Healthcare Navigation Module 4: Managing My Health Information.
If you’re interested in exploring or discussing topics like this, we invite you to check out our discussion forum, which is free and open to the public.
Additional PHR Resources:
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Healthvault.com