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Managing Your Medical Records: Importance and Advice

Binders, page dividers, word documents…oh my! My medical records took over my life not too long ago.

Maintaining personal medical records is more than just a good practice; it's a crucial step in ensuring access to vital health information. This article analyzes the importance of maintaining your medical records, some organizational options, my experience, and some practical advice.

When could you need your medical records?

Maintaining a personal copy of your medical records is crucial for ensuring access to your health information. While you can usually retrieve copies of your medical records years later, there are instances where this may not be possible. For example, if a clinic shuts down, you may lose access to your records when you need them.

There are times when having accurate copies of your medical records on hand can be both necessary and convenient. In some cases, insurance companies may deny requested medical procedures or medications. To appeal these denials, you must be able to prove that you have attempted other treatments in the past. This is where your medical records come into play.

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Another case where having complete copies of your medical records is important is when you are applying for social security disability. This is a case of needing all your medical records to prove that your condition(s) are real, chronic, and in some cases treatment-resistant.

Additionally, obtaining your own copies of your medical records allows you the opportunity to verify that the information is correct. I have personally seen a mistake in one set of my records before when the doctor mixed up my notes with another patient!

What does the process of obtaining records look like?

The part of the organizational process that can require the most time is gathering all relevant documents. In most cases, clinics say they will have the records ready within a set timeframe. It is rare for them to stop everything that is going on in the office and make copies of your chart right when you request them. In some cases, you can choose if you would like your records in physical files or if you would like digital files that can be saved on your computer or flash drive.

How do I organize my records?

Originally when I started obtaining and organizing my medical records, I kept the doctors/clinics together. For example, all my records from the time I was seeing Dr. A were filed together, then all my records from seeing Dr. B were filed together, etc.

A newer idea that I have had is to be sure to note medications, lab results, and imaging reports within these groupings of records. For insurance denials, it is good to have details on which medications you have taken, at what dosages, and for how long. When seeing new specialists, they tend to want to know what kind of lab work and scans you had done, along with the results.

How can you get started?

The first step in this process is to gather your existing medical records. Since each office has its procedures for giving patients their records, you will have to contact each clinic you have seen to start the process.

There are a variety of methods for maintaining your medical records at home. The most important component of this is choosing a system that you like and that works best for you. I highly suggest obtaining a copy of your records anytime you choose to leave a clinic. By gathering the records at that time, you will not be trying to gather records from countless clinics all at once.

Another piece of advice is to share the location of your records with trusted family members or caregivers. I suggest this because if you end up in the hospital or incapacitated, they can share your records with doctors.

Do you keep your medical records?

In conclusion, managing your medical records is not just about organization; it's about taking control of your healthcare journey. The reasons that this medical task is important is truly endless. I encourage you to take proactive steps to organize your own medical records.

Do you have a process for maintaining your own medical records? If so, please share what has worked for you and what motivated you to keep your own copies of your medical records.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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