Organizing Your Medical Records: What Should You Include?

Time to break out the label maker.

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You’ve decided to tackle the mountain of paperwork that is all your medical records. You know there are a number of benefits of organizing your medical records, but that stack of papers only seems to be getting bigger and more complicated as time goes on. You’ve finally carved out some time to tackle this project, but what should you keep and what should you throw out?

What To File in Your Medical Records

You don’t need to keep every scrap of paper relating to your medical history. Sometimes, you’ll get extra sheets of paper without anything on them or with random bits of information that are either irrelevant or easy enough to remember. These items will just clog up your medical records and make it harder to find the important information you actually need.

Here are the things worth storing:

1. A family health history

Include your parents, siblings, and grandparents, what illnesses they’ve each had, and the age they were diagnosed. Doctors will often ask about your family’s health history. It can help guide them to their diagnosis and assess your personal risk factors.

2. A personal health history

List any current conditions and what treatments you’re taking for them, and do the same for past conditions. It is important to not leave anything out. Even the most minute detail is valid.

3. Doctor visit summaries and notes

Get in the habit of taking notes at your doctor visits. Oftentimes, they’ll give you specific instructions on how to take a certain kind of medication or incorporate lifestyle changes. This can help you remember their instructions, but it can also help track what treatments you’ve tried.

4. Hospital discharge summaries

Every time you’re hospitalized, you’ll get a summary of what procedures were done and the medications you were given, along with blood test results.

5. Pharmacy printouts for prescribed medications

This is useful for keeping track of the names of medicines you use. Your doctor needs this info to avoid negative drug interactions and to rule out or include treatment options.

6. Test results

This includes blood work, x-rays, MRIs, bone density scans, and cancer screenings. A doctor will want to see these in order to better understand what your body is experiencing and what went wrong. These may be especially useful if you are seeing multiple doctors to manage a difficult condition.

7. Insurance forms

These can help remind you how much coverage you’ve had or will have. Doctors offices and hospitals will ask you for some kind of insurance when you have an appointment or are admitted.

8. Legal documents

This includes a living will and medical power of attorney. In the event that anything happens where you can’t advocate for yourself, this will let the right people know what your wishes are.

Talk to your doctor if you have any more questions about what to include when organizing your medical records. With this list, you won’t be caught off guard the next time you need to reach for important medical information.