How to Organize Medical Records

Patients or caregivers are often responsible for getting copies of medical
records to specialists and consultants. Maintaining an organized
copy of your own records–especially if you’re ill or have a chronic
condition–can literally mean the difference between life and death.

    Use a large three-ring binder with dividers to organize the information.

    Collect all contact information, including doctors’ names, telephone numbers, fax numbers and addresses, in one section.

    Keep a calendar in another section to record all appointments.

    Maintain a log book for medical phone calls, indicating the person you talked with and when, what was said and what decisions about the course of treatment were made.

    Keep a separate log of phone calls with your insurance company. Again, log the person you talked with, when, what was said and what follow-up is required.

    Create a section to record prescriptions: what the medications are, when they were prescribed, who prescribed them, what they are for, and which pharmacy fills the prescriptions.

    Make a separate section for receipts and financial paperwork, including insurance explanations of benefits (EOBs for short). Keep everything sorted by the date of service.

    Visit the medical records office of your doctor or hospital on a regular basis to get copies of reports, transcripts and other doctors’ records. You will need to show identification, sign a release form (including separate releases for HIV/AIDS and mental health records), and pay a copying fee. File these in reverse chronological order, so the newest record is on top.

    Visit your medical center’s film library if you have imaging studies (such as CT scans, MRIs or X-rays). Get duplicates of films, but realize there will probably be a charge for these. It’s often easiest and cheapest to have a radiologist make copies of imaging studies when the images are first made. Be sure to ask.

    Make extra photocopies occasionally of the most important records and store them with a trusted person.

    Keep records portable by devoting a briefcase or small rolling suitcase to them. This way you’ll be able to take them to all medical appointments.

Tips & Warnings

  • Your will should specify that your medical records be given to your biological children. Records provide the best insight into your family’s medical history. See 244 Make a Will.

  • MRIs are often available on a CD for an additional cost.

  • There’s usually a charge to get medical records photocopied at a hospital or doctor’s office. Understand what the cost is before you ask for hundreds of pages of copies.

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