In the past, it was more challenging to keep up with your medical records than it is now.
With electronic records and patient portals, you can access your important information, which is valuable in a host of ways. For example, you can be more empowered in your health care decisions, and you can learn more about what your health care options may be.
If you’re dealing with a long-term or chronic illness, you can better keep up with things like symptoms and medications.
Also, if you’re in a situation where you’re going to file a lawsuit for something like a car accident, you’re going to need to have detailed medical records. These records will help show things like your medical expenses and can highlight your loss of income, as well as your medications and needed medical equipment.
Whatever the reason you need to keep track of your medical records, the following are some things to know along the way.
Know What You Need
Regardless of the underlying reason you’re collecting your medical information, there are certain things you should make sure you have. Your medical care is likely very fragmented across many providers, so even with technology making it easier to access information, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily anymore organized.
You should ensure you have all the following, whether to help in the management of a health condition or if you have an issue with an insurance company:
- Test results
- Prescription information and guidelines
- Insurance statements
- Summaries of health care visits
Having all of this information will likely keep you healthier in general, because you can avoid the risk of situations such as taking medications that don’t interact well with one another.
You should keep insurance bills and statements for at least three years. Consider keeping your doctor visit notes and summaries indefinitely, as well as copies of your scans such as MRIs and colonoscopies. If applicable, keep your hospital discharge summaries indefinitely too.
Ask About Patient Portals Every Time You Visit a Care Provider
In any situation where you’re receiving medical care, you should ask about the patient portal, and get whatever you need to access the information it contains.
Patient portals are a secure website or app so that you can access your health information 24/7 as long as you have an internet connection.
You log in with a user name and password, which is sometimes verified by your health care provider.
These portals may have different features depending on the platform, but in general, it’ll include any diagnoses you may have, summaries of your visits and discharge summaries, immunizations, medications, lab results, and allergies.
You may be able to schedule appointments through the portal and send your care provider messages as well as paying bills.
When you access your patient portal, it has a lot of benefits outside of how easy it makes record collection and organization. For example, it allows you to check information without potentially having to make an unnecessary visit to your doctor. You may also be able to talk with your doctor about issues you’re having that aren’t necessarily urgent.
Once you’ve figured out what you need and where you access it, you can start thinking about how to organize it.
First, you’ll need to think about whether you want to do so digitally or use paper files. Most people go the digital route, simply because it saves space and you already have the information available in your patient portals so you can just download what you need.
In the beginning, think about the system you want to use. You might organize by month or year, or perhaps by the type of document it is.
For example, maybe you group all of your scans and tests together and then your prescriptions in another file or folder.
Once you’ve done the initial steps to organize everything, you can start filing each document or record as soon as you get it, to make it easier.
If you ever file a claim such as a car insurance claim, you’re going to be prepared with everything your lawyer will need for your case, so it’s not as overwhelming.
If you’re going to keep up with everything digitally, some apps can make it easier, such as Chartspan.
Finally, if you regularly have a family member go to doctor’s appointments with you, maybe you ask them to help you keep your records too, or to take notes for you during your visits because these can be important too.