Legal Articles

February 11, 2011

Managing Your Medical History

Quick! Answer these questions:

What medications are you taking?
What is the dosage and how long have you been taking them?
When was your last physical?
Has your weight fluctuated in the past five years? If so, how much?
Ladies: When was your last mammogram?
Gentlemen: Have you had a prostate exam?
What is your parents' medical history?

If you do not know the answer to these questions before you walk into your doctor's office, you are essentially presenting him or her with a jigsaw puzzle of your health history.

It's easy to remember the big medical events in our lives like surgery, childbirth, hospitalization or accidents, but other pesky medical details often get lost in the minutia of day to day living. To get the best possible care from your physician, to save both your time and theirs and to avoid unnecessary tests, get your health history organized and keep it up to date. Here's now. Create a medical file for yourself. Then do the same for your children.

Filing System
A binder is the easiest way to contain and control your medical records, but a spiral notebook or a file folder will also work. On separate sheets of paper, create these lists:
  • All major medical events in your life (operations, hospitalization, severe illness, injuries, etc), the dates and results or outcomes. Include allergies, past and present.

  • An inventory of current medications, the dosage, frequency and if you've increased or decreased anything in the last 18 months. Include over-the-counter medications (vitamins, supplements, calcium, etc.).

  • Your biological parents' and siblings' medical history. If you don't know it, ask. Also find out if they know of other relatives in your genetic family tree who have diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, alcoholism, depression or major medical surgery.

  • Current info sheet. After each doctor visit, record: your weight, blood pressure and heart rate, anything you have discussed during the visit, new medications your physician has prescribed and any you will be discontinuing.

Records to Keep. Young, healthy individuals should retain the following records for two to three years. Older folks, or individuals with chronic medical conditions, should keep them indefinitely.
  • Test result printouts received from labs or physician's office.

  • Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your health insurance company.

  • Invoices for doctor's visits, lab tests, surgery, hospitalization. Note the check number and date you paid these bills.

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