Medical Records Checkup - How To Keep Your Personal Medical Files Under Control


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Quick. In five seconds or less can you recall the exact date and time of your last doctor’s visit? Could you remember when your next prescription refill is due? If one of your children or your spouse was suddenly rushed to the hospital, could you quickly gather all the necessary health insurance papers and relevant medical records?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, you’re not alone. Of all the records we keep in our home filing cabinet, few are as important as our medical records. Not only do they inform our doctors of any special care we require, but they also help us stay up- to-date on our medical progress and help us plan for future medical needs. In the event of a medical emergency, the more organized you are before the crisis, the better your chances for coming through the event with the least number of complications.

Perhaps the biggest challenge of storing personal medical records is the sheer amount of paperwork itself. After all, every doctor’s visit, every pharmacy prescription, and every insurance payment generates at least one to two sheets of paper. For example, one 30-minute doctor’s visit alone could easily result in five or more pieces of paper—diagnosis information, doctor’s bill, prescription and drug info sheet, health insurance authorization and insurance statement. With so many papers to keep track of, it’s no wonder many people give up and just toss it all into a “to do” pile.

However, when it comes to medical information, there are four main categories of paperwork you need to retain: 1) prescription information, 2) general health information, 3) specific medical condition information for each family member, and 4) health insurance information. Look through all the medical records you currently have stored and divide the papers into these four categories.

For prescription information, keep a record of the drug name and dosage amount for each prescription. Also keep note of refill dates and the number of refills remaining. File any drug info sheet your pharmacist gives you, as these may help you quickly identify any drug interactions or dangerous side effects.

General health information may include articles you’ve read about lowering cholesterol, losing weight, or any other topic of interest to you. This information does not need to relate to any specific person or ailment. In contrast, specific medical condition information for each family member should include everything related to a particular disease or ailment someone has. Keep a separate file for each condition and each family member so nothing gets confused.

When organizing your health insurance information, keep a record of every payment and authorization. Also make sure you have the most updated listing of what services are covered and which doctors participate in your health plan. Having accurate insurance information could save you both money and time in the long run.

Filing System for Organizing Medical Claim Info:

1. Insurance Policy Guidelines for Primary Policy

2. Claims to be submitted to Primary Policy Holder

3. Claims submitted, but not paid by Primary Policy Holder

4. Insurance Policy Guidelines for Supplemental Policy

5. Claims to be submitted to Supplemental Policy Holder

6. Claims submitted to Supplemental Policy Holder, but not paid

7. Claims paid

Your Paper Prescription In the past, there were only four things you could do with all this paper: toss it, stack it, file it the traditional way, or convert it to electronic form using a scanner. Now a fifth option is available—a software program that allows you to keep your information in paper form in your filing cabinet. The incredible search power of the computer enables you to find anything you want in five seconds or less.

This software, Kiplinger’s Taming the Paper Tiger( ) published by Monticello Enterprises of Sunnyvale, CA, and based on the book Taming the Paper Tiger, utilizes one simple principle: Clutter is Postponed Decisions®. These days, too few people are deciding whether to keep something, where to keep it, how long to keep it, or how to find it. As a result, it sits and sits and sits, until it get buried beneath some new pile.

But consider this. There are only three things you can do with any piece of paper: 1)File it for future reference; 2) Act on it; or 3) Toss it. The Paper Tiger calls it The FAT System™. A major premise of the program is a series of questions called, “The Art of Wastebasketry?. ” The most important question is, “What is the worst possible thing that would happen if I didn’t have this information?” If you can live with the answer, toss it. Additionally, research shows that 80% of what we keep we never use, but frequently we aren’t willing to take that risk. At that point, whether you plan to take action on the item or simply put it away in case you need it in the future, a good filing system is the best alternative to stacks of paper that often turn into outdated and unused clutter.

So before you make another doctor’s appointment, make sure your medical information is the most current and easy to retrieve. By creating an effective filing system today you’ll enable yourself to stay better informed about your health matters. You’ll also be better prepared for doctor’s visits and any medical emergencies, should they occur. Most important, you’ll be able to approach each day with less stress, knowing you can find what you need exactly when you need it.

© Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at


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