Have you ever lied to your doctor? Most people have, and many of them didn’t realize they were doing it. Doctors are always asking tough questions, such as certain medications you’ve taken or intricate details about your medical history. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember all the answers. However, while it’s difficult, it’s also really important.
As a health advocate, I know it’s critical to have access to all your own health information. It’s the only way you and all of your doctors can make smart decisions about your healthcare. How can your general practitioner know what your gynecologist said? It’s up to you to be the conduit for all those details. That’s why I started keeping my own copy of all my medical records. Here's how I do it.
Start with a three-ring binder and a bunch of divider tabs. Every time you get a test done or go to the doctor, put the information in the appropriate section. Then take the binder with you to every doctor’s appointment. My tabs are set up like this:
Write down the details of your everyday health. Make special notes of anything out of the ordinary like a headache or change in your diet. You never know what might be important later.
Get a copy of your results from every test you take. I have to have blood work done frequently, so I have a section for that and a section for other tests like mammograms and other scans. If you have a scan done, be sure to get a copy of the actual scan, as well as the written report from the radiologist. I make pockets out of envelopes to store CDs with test images right next to the printed reports in my binder.
Put a copy of your actual policy in the binder so you’ll know what procedures are covered by your insurance company.
A living will is a document that lets you assign someone to speak for you if you are too sick to make your own decisions. It’s critical to choose a medical advocate who is willing and able to stand up for your rights as a patient. For more on this including specific requirements for your state, check out the living will articles on the EmpowHER website.
Surgical records and discharge papers
Save all the details. You never know when you might have questions about what happened or what instructions you were given.
Full disclosure is really important here. Keep an accurate list of everything you are taking including prescriptions and over-the-counter items like ibuprofen, vitamins and herbal supplements. If you have prescriptions from multiple doctors, keep track of who prescribed what. You never know what could interfere with other things you are taking.
List of questions for the doctor
Double check your list before you leave the doctor’s office to make sure you got answers to all your questions.
If this sounds completely overwhelming, start with the medical history form on the Massachusetts General Hospital website. It can help you pull all the details together. Keep it up to date and you’ll never have to struggle with filling out paperwork for a new doctor because you’ll have all the info gathered in one place.
If my binder system seems too complicated, at least get a set of accordion file folders and label one for each member of your family. Whenever you have an appointment, test or procedure, put the paperwork in the appropriate folder. It may not be organized, but at least you’ll have it if you ever need to go back through your records.
Normally, when it comes to your health, I say to keep everything in moderation. But when it comes to your health records, I say more is better. Gather your records, take them to your doctors’ appointments, and you’ll never need to lie to your doctor again. It's all part of being your own advocate.
Michelle King Robson (pronounced robe-son) is one of the nation's leading women's health and wellness advocates. She is the Founder, Chairperson and CEO of EmpowHER, one of the fastest-growing and largest social health companies dedicated exclusively to women's health and wellness. In 2011 EmpowHER reached more than 60 million women onsite and through syndication expects to reach more than 250 million in 2012.