Organized medical records save not only time and stress, but may save your life or the life of someone you love. Whether you need your own medical records or you’re a caretaker for a child or aging parent, having quick access to health histories, surgery records, allergies, insurance, and other critical information can ensure the best care when you need it. It can feel impossible to keep track of every specialist, bill, appointment, prescription, and more. Create a personal health record with these tips.

Collect your paper medical records.

Probably stuffed in drawers or filing cabinets, but possibly strewn across multiple locations, you’ll find pieces of the medical history you need to collect. Especially when working on behalf of elderly parents, the medical records may be in a few different locations. There may also be many, many paper records. Having as complete of a medical history as possible is important.

For paper records, consider using a large three-ring binder to organize them. You can create a cover page with name, blood type, and other critical information, like allergies. Use colored and labeled tabs to organize the medical record into sections, which can include:

  • family history
  • immunizations
  • health screenings
  • important contacts
  • billing
  • prescriptions
  • allergies

By organizing medical records this way, you can have a comprehensive record of the information you need quickly in an emergency, regardless of where and when you are receiving treatment.

Scan your records.

Once you’ve got your paper documents organized, it’s time to create a digital copy. Once everything is scanned and saved to your personal computer, you can mirror the hard-copy organizational system you have created. All labels and sections should look the same so that you can locate any information you need quickly and easily. Using a digital platform like the cloud can give you access to this information wherever you have an internet connection.

Benefit of digitized records.

It is not necessary to keep a hard copy of everything, and there are some paper records you can likely get rid of (old bills that have been paid, etc). Digitizing the records makes it easy to search for what you need. As you create files, you can add tags to make them easier to find. Since many medical providers now have an online system that stores your medical history for you, you can often upload additional medical history to those files for an offline backup. There are also programs you can use to convert your hard copy medical files into a digital format that offer you a way to store them as well. Choose the system that works best for you and organize your paper records chronologically and categorically.

One of our colleagues shared this with us:

I’m learning about the importance of organized medical records right now with my parents. In my car I keep a backpack with all their medical, financial and legal papers at all times so they’re handy when I’m at the bank or doctors’ offices. I use my phone more than ever before to keep the calendar, to-do lists, photos of documents and many other things. I take a bag to their assisted living facilities with a sharpie for labeling their clothes and personal items, and things to drop off with them. I’ve never had to keep track of so many things before, and I could never do it without some organization!

Organizing medical records can be a tedious process, but medical records contain some of the most valuable information you’ll ever need, so this is one project that is good for your physical and mental health.