dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Keep Your Medical Records in Hand

I’ve been writing recently about switching health insurance coverage and having to choose new doctors. You can get caught up by reading my two previous posts here:

I had to make the switch very quickly. Usually when you ask for copies of medical records, you have them sent to the new doctor. But I didn’t yet have a doctor to send them to, so I had the records delivered to myself. At first I felt a bit overwhelmed. There are six computer disks of information: two of them contain all the notes of my office visits with every doctor I’d seen plus laboratory results and every email and message. The remaining disks are digitized copies of the x-rays, MRIs and scans I had done in the last seven years.

I’m so glad now that I have possession of my records. I’m totally convinced those of us with chronic conditions should have copies of our medical records. For someone like me, with a complicated syndromic illness affecting many areas of my body, having all my records together when I see all these new doctors is proving to be so extremely helpful. Instead of the physician wasting time during our appointment searching through the disks, which are organized chronologically and not by medical specialty, I can reach into my binder and in an instant provide exactly what information they want to see.

Here’s how I did it:

When I went through the records on disk, I searched for a medical specialty (for example, Rheumatology) and then printed out each office visit’s notes. I sorted them by year, put them into a plastic sleeve, and slipped them into a large binder. I did this for each medical specialty involved in my treatment: Rheumatology, Cardiology, Opthamology, Gynecology, Dermatology, Pain Management, Podiatry, and Neurology. I then printed out and sleeved all these results from the last two years: Lab results, Brain MRI report, Xray reports, CT reports, and any other tests/treatment results.

Next I included all the paperwork from when I was originally diagnosed at the National Institutes of Health. Then I downloaded and printed out all the daily chronic pain reports I’ve been keeping on my phone with that cool pain tracker app called Manage My Pain Lite and created a separate section for all my pain journaling. In the very back of the binder I put the original six medical record computer disks from my old HMO in an envelope. 

“To be prepared is half the victory.”
 ~Miguel de Cervantes

I took one final step: I had my husband take the completed binder, remove each section of papers, and scan them onto a new computer disk. When he was finished, I had in my hands a concise and completely up-to-date single master disk. I made a couple of copies for backup, and then slipped two of those master disks into my binder to carry with me to appointments.

It sure paid off in my first two doctor visits! I gave my new internist a copy of the master disk to enter into the hospital computer system. In the course of our appointment, she asked me specifics about dates when certain tests were done and asked to see reports from Gynecology and Cardiology. I was able to turn a few pages and answer her questions, even pulling out just the information she wanted to read.

In my second appointment, the Ob-Gyn wanted to see exactly what was said by my last doctor in that specialty as well as the report on my brain tumor and current blood test results. Again, I was able to instantly hand over what she needed to see without her having to search endlessly through those six original medical records disks and waste what little time we had scheduled together.

From this point on, it will be much easier. Each time I follow up with a doctor, I just need to ask for a copy of the notes from our last office visit. That way I’ll have my entire health record current and available to me if I want to see a specialist outside my insurance or for any other purpose.

It was lot of work to organize, but I highly recommend doing it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot have copies of your office visits, test results, or any other treatment paperwork - they are YOUR medical records and they belong to you!


  1. I appreciate the quote "To be prepared is half the victory." Being prepared is always an advantage, especially for your medical case. Compiling those medical records you obtained in the past will help a lot for your new doctor to know your current medical condition. It's a lot of work, indeed, but it's worth the effort in the end. :)

    [James Guertin]

  2. It is important that you are aware of your medical case/situation, and the best way to keep track is to have a detailed copy of your medical works. It pays to know and be prepared. Organize your records for you will never know when you will be needing it.

    -Almeta Tai


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