3 Steps to Disaster Prep: Fast Access to Your Medical Information

You get a bad infection and the doctor wants to know if you are allergic to any types of medicines. You cut your skin with a sharp instrument and the nurse wants to know your blood type. You are listed as next of kin for a relative who is unconscious from a car accident and the medical personnel need to know about past medical history. You keep switching doctors due to changes in your health insurance plan. As an independent young adult, the doctor asks for your immunization records, do you know the last time you had a tetanus shot?

Having organized, easily accessible medical records can be the difference between life and death. Sounds dramatic, but it can be true. So let’s look at some of the ways you can organize your medical data. First consider the following:

  • What is your current life stage? Are you married? Do you have children or plan to? Are you single? Are you an empty-nester?
  • What changes might occur in your next life stage? If you have children, they will leave the home and need to take medical records with them. If you are single, you might get married and need to be able to understand how your spouse keeps his/her medical information.
  • Do you tend to think of your medical needs in terms of doctors names, medical specialties, or systems within the body?
  • Do you prefer files in folders, binders, expandable folders, or some other format?

Now let’s take the answers to these questions and see what might work best for you.

Idea #1 Folders. One large, hanging folder per family member with manila sub folders. The sub folders might be different doctors, such as dermatologist, allergist, primary care, etc. Or they might be a system that you find works better for you. If you don’t have many medical records, you may only need one manila folder for each family member.

Idea #2 Binders: One binder per family member with subject dividers. These dividers can be named by doctor name, medical specialty, system within the body (circulatory, etc.) or some other way that works for you. You may want to have a piece of paper at the front of each section for basic information. For instance, list the date of an appointment with your general practitioner and state “everything okay”. If you have any test results or notes from an appointment they can be put behind the appropriate divider. By having records in a binder, you can easily take the binder to an appointment and have all pertinent information with you. If you have extensive medical history, it may either take a big binder or multiple binders. If more than one binder is necessary, then you have to make a decision about which information goes into each binder.

Idea #3 Electronic: Electronic refers to two different concepts:

  • Electronic copies of information you also have in hard copy. The best way to organize these is to set up files within your computer that are parallel to the structure of your paper files. This is a whole article unto itself, so I won’t give additional information on this at this time.
  • Websites or software that allow you to manage your medical records online or on your computer. See “products” section below for additional information.

Products for purchase:  As you can imagine, there are some products on the market that can help you organize your medical records. Some of them are listed below, These resources are for reference purpose only and not intended to be an endorsement for any specific product.

  • MedicTag is a USB medic alert tag designed for emergency medical information and alerts. It is an easy way to have access to all of your health records. It is especially useful in unexpected medical situations.
  • MyPro Medical Health Records Organizer is a combination electronic and hard copy way to save your medical information. Detailed enclosed binder includes places to organize your medical records, an instruction guide, tracking forms, and method for organizing contact information for medical professionals. CD with forms allows you to save medical information electronically or print out forms you have filled in.
  • Quicken Medical Expense Manager or other software programs can help you organize your medical bills.

Cheat sheet: If you want to have a document that is easily carried with you at all times, I have found one that I like. It is called Pocket.doc. It is the size of a credit card which then unfolds into a series of forms for specific information. In one small “package” the following information is given:

  • local and out-of-state contacts
  • blood type, primary physician, insurance, current medications, immunization, and allergies

There is room for the information for two people. At $3.50 a pop, I plan to give these as stocking stuffers to family and friends.

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