It is always smart to keep copies of your medical billing records because they will be useful if you change doctors, go to an emergency room, get sick while traveling or move to another place. Having the physical or digital copies of your medical records conveniently organized can save you time and allow you to get better medical care. In fact, research has found that heart patients who retain personal medical records enjoy better health outcomes because their caregivers can better see their health history. This is probably also the case of people who have other chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and arthritis.
Ask your caregivers to have access to your medical records. The first step to organizing your personal medical record is to collect physical copies of as much information as you can about your treatments and diagnoses from all of our caregivers, including doctors, nurses, chiropractors, physiotherapists, psychologists, etc. Keep in mind that federal law requires that all doctors and medical centers allow you access to your medical records.
- Remember to be educated and be calm when you ask for access to your medical records. Say it’s to make your own personal record. Some doctors and medical centers may have doubts about allowing you access due to fear of a malpractice suit.
- Your caregiver may need a little time to organize your medical information because it may not be all in one file. Schedule an appointment to return if that is the case.
- Keep in mind that a personal medical record combines all the medical information collected by each caregiver or medical center in which you have been in a single file that is easily accessible.
While federal law gives you the right to access most of the patient’s health information (medical records, images, test results, bill records, etc.), some types of information are exempt. For example, you will not have the right to access psychotherapy notes (that is, notes taken by a mental health professional during a counseling session) or documents compiled for use in a civil or criminal proceeding.
Get copies of all the documents in your medical records. Once you have notified the caregiver of your intentions and have organized your medical information, it will be time to make copies of everything. Your personal medical record should include copies of all test or laboratory results, diagnoses, treatment reports, radiology reports, progress notes, insurance statements and references of each caregiver or medical center you have visited. Do not expect the same caregiver to make a copy of your file for you. It is likely that your support staff will be the one to do it.
- While you will have your medical information, you will not have the original files, x-rays and documents. You will see that your information is there, but do not expect to leave with the originals. You will only have the right to have copies of the originals.
- Your caregiver or medical center has the legal right to charge you a copy fee, so ask how much it could cost you. They can charge you per page or a fixed charge for the copy service.
- You may have to sign an authorization form at each center where you request records.
Organize and put your hard copies in a folder. Once you have copied your original medical records, separate them by making a stack for each medical provider. Then order the records of each provider from your first visit to the most recent, in chronological order. This type of organization will make finding information fast and easy. Drill holes in your medical records in the left margin using a three-hole punch and place them in a three-ring binder or in a ringed notebook (perhaps with dividers for each relative or even a folder for each).
- Use index dividers of different colors in order to organize your medical records by medical provider or medical center. In addition to classifying with colors, organizes various doctors in alphabetical order within the folder.
- Consider reinforcing the holes in your copied documents, especially if you or your caregivers check the folder frequently.
- Keep in mind that any document related to payments or insurance claims must be kept for up to five years. However, if they are related to your tax returns, keep them for at least seven years.
Create a table of contents Use a word processing program on your computer to write a table of contents for your personal medical records. The table of contents page should describe the suppliers classified with colors that you have seen and that are listed chronologically or alphabetically. This will make it much easier for health professionals who are busy to review it. Print the table of contents on a thicker piece of paper so that it is more resistant to breakage or wear.
- Use a large and readable font for the content page; however, it should not be very elegant or artistic (remember that you are not making a scrapbook).
- If necessary, visit the website of the company that made the index dividers to get help in producing a table of printed content.
- Use the blank table of contents that might have been included with the index dividers that you purchased for your folder.
Keep your folder or notebook safe. Once you have organized all physical copies of your medical records in a sturdy three-hole binder or in a ringed notebook, keep it on a stable shelf or locked filing cabinet at home, away from children and pets. Having your medical records at home will allow you to read and understand them in your free time, which can help you feel more in control of your health and choose your therapies better.
- For added security, consider saving your physical copies folder in a safe or fireproof safe.
- It may be more convenient to have your physical copies at hand and near where your desk and computer are. Then you can focus on securing the digital copies (see below).