What To Do With Your Data

Make Sure What Your Receive is Error Free

Review all the information you receive from your health care providers and carefully make note of any information that appears incorrect. Notify your provider of any error; it’s often easiest to make a copy of the page with incorrect information and handwrite corrections on it.

The healthcare provider must respond to your written notice of error within 60 days, but may extend up to 30 days if they provide a reason to you in writing. Furthermore, healthcare providers are not required to make the change you request if they believe your request is not accurate. In such cases, you must be notified in writing, and you have the right to submit a formal, written disagreement, which must be added to your file.

If you feel your rights to correct your health information has been violated, you can file a complaint with with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; just make sure to file the complaint within 180 days.

Benefits of Getting Your Medical Records

Once you’ve received your information from your health care providers, it’s important to organize it for easy access. You’ll find it useful having these records in your control if you:

  • Want to manage your ongoing medical care
  • Change doctors
  • Move
  • Get sick when you’re away from home, or need to receive treatment in an emergency room.

If any of these things happen and you or family members have access to these records, you may get key treatment more quickly, and it will be safer.

You can write a short summary of this information and keep a copy in your files, and you can also make an “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) card with key information and keep it in your wallet or add the information to an application on your phone.

Adding to Your Medical Records

It’s helpful to extract information from the files you receive from your health care providers and organize it in an easy to reference format. Make sure to include:

Current health information, including blood type, allergies (drug or food), medical devices (stents, pacemakers), artificial joints (knees, hips), vision or hearing problems. Any health screening results, such as those for blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, and hearing.
A list of the medicines you are taking, including both prescription and over-the-counter medicines, dietary and herbal supplements, and vitamins and minerals. For each medicine, give the name of the doctor who prescribed it, why you are taking it, how much you take, and any special instructions.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia or angina
A history of childbirth, if you’re a woman
Major health problems you’ve had in the past, such as pneumonia or broken bones, any problems with alcohol or drugs, or any event requiring hospitalization
Immunizations
Records of recent insurance claims and payments.
A copy of your advance directive, including a living will and medical power of attorney.
Current contact information for your primary care physician.
In addition, if you have access to your family history, this can be an invaluable addition to your personal medical history. Keep records of major health issues in your family, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes or any autoimmune diseases. The US Department of Health and Human Services provides a useful form to start this process.

Where to Store and How to Organize

Once you’ve received your medical records from your physicians and added additional relevant information, you need to decide how to store this information and how much effort you want to make in organizing it.

You can store your medical records on your computer, using an online service, or with paper put in a three ring binder, manilla envelopes, or even just a cardboard filing box; there are no legal requirements for how you store your records, but it’s a good idea to make sure that it’s secure.

If you store your files on your computer, make sure that access is restricted with a password and that your computer’s operating system and any antivirus software is up to date. There are programs which can help you organize the information if you want to do that.

You can also store your medical records files online at speciality sites, such as Microsoft Healthvault; you can even use popular online storage services such as Google Drive, Box, or DropBox, but make sure that understand and use advanced security settings, such as two factor authentication, to keep this sensitive information safe.

Many people prefer to use a notebook or paper filing system. These can be easy to set up, offers flexibility, and are safe from online theft. If you use a paper based system, store the information in a safe location and make sure that someone you trust also knows where you keep it. Organizing your paper records can be as simple or complex as you want:

Stuff it all in a filing box. Label the outside of the box for easy identification.
Use manilla envelopes to separate pages by provider or medical condition, if helpful.
You can use color coded envelopes, if that’s helpful in making key sets of information stand out.
Three ring binders can be a handy way to organize the information and has the added benefit of being easily portable.

Further Actions You Can Take

Once you have your medical records and have chosen a storage and organization system that works for you, you can add further information to aid in managing your well being and healthcare in the future.

Log symptoms and side effects. If you or a family member has a chronic medical condition, keep a log of relevant factors like blood pressure and blood sugar. If you can, include the time of day so that your doctor can help figure out whether changes in your health measurements are related to the condition or to medications.
Also keep a log of how you respond to any medications. Be specific with the name of the medication, the dose and when and what problems happened.
Likewise, keep track of any issues with food allergies, or with your dietary intake.
Lastly, include any exercise or activity logs. If you use a fitness tracker, keep track of any major trends or health issues that arise.